Saturday, August 19, 2006

Movie Log: Zoom

I'm beginning to think my boys will always choose crap when given a choice, but I haven't given up all hope yet.

Today they had two choices. The first was whether to watch Howl's Moving Castle at home or go see something in the theater. (They chose the latter, which is very understandable; given a choice, I'd rather see a movie on a big screen than at home on TV.) The second choice was between Monster House and Zoom, and they decided against Monster House for the second time. (And that's too bad, because it really does look like the best of this summer's crop of kids' movies.)

Zoom is a movie fatally undermined by its own casting (or so I surmise; it's possible that it would have had the same problems anyway), a movie that ends up feeling smaller than it should -- though I should say it's pleasant and entertaining, like tea that's sweet enough but too watery. As a movie about a "family" of super-powered folks, it inevitably suffers by comparison with The Incredibles. Unfortunately, it also suffers by comparison with last year's Sky High, another super-powered kids movie with a better-structured plot and a lot of good actors in small roles. Zoom shoves forward its name actors (primarily Tim Allen as the ex-teen superhero Captain Zoom, but also Courteney Cox as the doctor/love interest, a nearly unrecognizable Chevy Chase as the doctor/comic relief, and Rip Torn as the kind of hardass military guy that Torn can play in his sleep by now).

The movie should be about the four kids learning to use their powers and trust each other, but, instead, it's a Tim Allen movie -- he's a washed up superhero who's needed when the only other survivor of his teenage super-team, his brother -- who of course turned evil and killed the rest of the team before being thought killed -- starts heading back to Earth from some other dimension. So Allen's character, Jack, has to train the next generation of heroes to stand up to the new threat. Unfortunately, the movie is about Jack rather than about the kids, and he's the one who ends up saving the day (with each other super-powered person providing a precisely measured dose of help). I wonder if there was a draft of this movie done right before Allen got attached -- one actually about the kids.

Don't get me wrong: Allen's acting is fine, and he carries this movie, such as it is. (He has to; it was built to be carried by Tim Allen.) But having him, a "movie star," in the movie kept it from being the story it should have been and made it a Tim Allen vehicle.

Since it's a Tim Allen movie, he needs a love interest, so Cox's screen time is increased over the real plot function of her character. And Chase does a mild, aged version of the schtick that we used to love thirty years ago. (To his credit, it's only embarrassing once, when an "outdoor simulator" sends his character into ethnic-stereotype dialogue for no obvious reason.)

Let's see; what else is wrong here? Allen's super-suit, revealed at the end, is uninspiring, and the kids' graduation jumpsuits (in bland white) are actually less appealing than their yellow training uniforms. The big end fight is too small, and has too many scenes of soldiers falling down because a special effect is in their neighborhood.

All in all, Zoom seems to have spent its money on Allen and Cox and Chase. I wish they had hired instead people like Mark Hamill and Sandra Oh and William H. Macy, and spent the $5 million or so saved there on a better script, a decent costume designer, and a bit more special effects (not a lot; just enough to make it feel more important) at the end.

(Oh, and the aging-superhero-coming-out-of-retirement gag was done first and best by The Return of Captain Invincible, an incredibly uneven but fascinating 1983 movie with Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee, with great songs by Richard "Rocky Horror Picture Show" O'Brien.)

If you absolutely loved Sky High, or are the world's biggest Tim Allen fan, go see this movie. If you have kids who really want to see it, go with them and be mildly entertained. Otherwise, if you think you want to see a story like this, rent Sky High or track down The Tomorrow People.

No comments:

Post a Comment