Friday, August 11, 2006


Directed by Peter Hewitt
Written by Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum from the Jason Lethcoe novel Zoom's Academy.

The comic book comedy has now hit a point where it will soon merit its own shelf at your local video store. After The Incredibles and Sky High, both fun takes on the comic book environment that were big hits, we're now going to start seeing the movies that the studios will greenlight just for the hell of it. Let's imagine the cigar-chomping studio executive in his plush conference room listening to the pitch (words actually heard by executive in bold):

It's like Harry Potter meets the comic book world, kind of like Sky High. We haven't actually written the script yet, but rest assured, our production team is watching a whole bunch of movies to get ideas right now. And we're going to get the director of Garfield, Tom & Huck, The Borrowers, and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey to make it. If we don't get this guy, we're not going to make a lot of money.

We've seen the saturation of the computer animated movie this year, and my only conclusion is that this is the thinking that goes on when certain movies get greenlit. It only has to share some common traits with another movie that was successful to give the OK. This is not anything new to Hollywood, but they should be spanked every time they make movies like this.

This movie gives us some half-assed backstory at the beginning, of course complete with the now-requisite comic book illustrations--Zoom (Tim Allen) used to be a part of this Fantastic Four-style supergroup, but his brother Concussion (Kevin Zegers) gets zapped by too much radiation by the government-controlled training center, turns evil, and also kills Zoom's girlfriend before disappearing. Now, he's on his way back, and the government snatches the former superhero back to the facility under the guise of training four young "freaks." They are the incredibly strong cute little girl Cindy Collins (Ryan Newman), I'm-not-fat-I'm-big-boned Tucker Williams (Spencer Breslin), the disappearing Dylan West (Michael Cassidy), and the mind-moving hottie Summer Jones (Kate Mara). Helping Zoom are scientist Dr. Grant (Chevy Chase), and longtime fan Marsha Holloway (Courteney Cox), while the gruff General Larraby (Rip Torn) schemes other plans.

The four heroes-in-waiting are shoved into the academy well before we even get to know them as characters. And we have no idea if there are concerned parents around; just a hint here and there, but mostly, I guess, moms and dads have no qualms about sending their kids off to some military superhero camp, and are not impressed with their abilities, or weren't considered necessary to any kind of potential emotional impact of the story. But since the movie isn't really interested in getting to know them in any way other than that they're freaks and they have to deal with these powers, I certainly didn't care either.

And the script, story, direction, anything you can name is just a mess. Hewitt moves the movie along at an uninterested pace, with rhythms evoking a Disney TV movie after a Kim Possible marathon. This movie is aimed strictly for kids, even though Allen every once in awhile will say something resembling an adult-themed joke. Somewhere in all of this junk is a subversive movie that could be molded into something pretty funny--but there's no interest in making this witty or hell, even action-packed. One or the other would have sufficed.


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