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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Zoom

This weekend I realized that if I was dying and I wanted my last few hours to seem like I still had years to live I could always spend them back at the Essex Cinemas watching Zoom one more time. Then again, those “years” would be sheer Hell so I’d be better off dying a quick and painless death, and given the choice, I’d rather stick corkscrews in my eyes and lighted firecrackers in my ears than watch Zoom again. It’s just that bad.

Whatever prompted Tim Allen to sign up for this piece of puerile puffery is beyond me. He can’t be that broke after all those years of making tv’s Home Improvement, but if he has been forced into this for some other reason, it must be something pretty serious because after his prison record and mug shots for selling cocaine became public several years ago, you’d think there couldn’t be anything worse he’d want to cover up and ~ short of multiple chainsaw murders ~ appearing in Zoom has got to be the most humiliating experience I can imagine.

I know you are saying to yourself “Oh please, it can’t possibly be that bad”, but trust me. This story isn’t going to entertain anyone except children small enough to be amused by moving shapes and colors and those who are looking for a dark place to nap where their bosses aren’t likely to find them on a weekday afternoon. The tale itself actually seems like it could hold promise, probably because it sounds suspiciously like it’s a bastardized riff on the X-Men’s story, but a good idea in the hands of a hack director (Peter Hewitt; Thunderpants) is like expecting quality results from Stevie Wonder after having him do a paint-by-numbers version of Michelangelo’s The Last Supper. He may be good at some things, but this ain’t it.

Allen plays Jack Shepard, a retired superhero called Captain Zoom, naturally, who
disappeared 30 years ago after the other members of his team of super-powered teenagers were killed by a malevolent turncoat in their midst called Concussion. Since then Jack has grown to middle-age in obscurity and become a garage mechanic. The world has pretty much forgotten Zoom except for those nerdy comic book collectors who have maintained the Captain’s adventures between the plastic sleeves of their vintage graphic stories from the 1970s.

Now, General Larraby (Rip Torn; Marie Antoinette) and Dr. Grant (Chevy Chase; Goose on the Loose), the men who have maintained the secret government facility Area 52, where Zoom and his team were trained and supported way back when, show up after all this time and force Jack to come with them to Area 52, where he is recruited (for $500K) to help choose and train a new group of super kids to do battle against a mysterious adversary that the men are careful not to reveal to Jack. They have issues with him and Jack has never trusted either of them because it was the result of their experiments with a substance called Gamma 13 that caused Concussion, Jack’s younger brother, to evolve to the dark side and become a killer. Now, Jack’s having to work with them, is supposed to generate tension, and if Allen could really emote it might work, but he just comes off seeming a bit constipated about being back at Area 52. It could just be the oatmeal. It binds.

Assisting Jack is Marsha Holloway, a thoroughly
embarrassed looking Courteney Cox (Alpha Dog), who even says in an outtake during the end credits that she wishes Matt LeBlanc was there. No doubt after she saw what she had gotten herself into she would have been happy to wish her job on just about anybody. After all, that’s what “Friends” are for. Her role seems mostly to fawn over Tim Allen and fall over every crack in the sidewalk or trip over every piece of furniture in the Area 52 complex. Even Jerry Lewis never fell down as many times in his movies as Cox does here and at least he was the star of his pictures. Here, poor Courteney has little to do but smile and fall down. You’d think the producers could have found someone a lot cheaper to fill that part, but at least with Cox in the cast they can blame the cheesy special effects on having to pay her those big “Friends” bucks and say that is what is responsible for eating up the FX budget. But I digress…

What drivels out for the rest of the movie is simply dimbulb sitcom pap. The four kids chosen for the team fit the stereotypes you can probably guess without me telling you. Handsome 17 year old boy rebel Dylan West (Michael Cassidy; Dare), and gorgeous 16 year old girl Summer Jones (Kate Mara; Brokeback Mountain) spell out G-rated puppy love between moments of invisibility and telekinesis (his) and levitation and mind-reading (hers), while tubby 12 year old Tucker Williams (Spencer Breslin; The Shaggy Dog) expands various body parts into gigantic size for the best possible cartoon-y effects and 6 year old Cindy Collins (Ryan Newman: Monster House) defies her Cindy Brady blonde preciousness by slinging two ton cement weights around for fun. Apparently watching these kids do these tricks passes for plot much like stupid pet tricks on The David Letterman Show.

Eventually, though, the story has to have a point, so the limpid climax finds Jack back in action with the kids as they work together to defeat the secret threat who (quelle surprise!) is actually Concussion, now escaped from his inter-dimensional prison. Yawn. Do you have any guess who will prevail? Will Zoom be able to reverse the brain damage done by the Gamma 13? Will anyone be able to reverse the brain damage done to the writers of this diaper nugget? Will anyone care? Will Tim Allen get the negatives of the damning pictures back that the execs at Columbia must have locked away in a safe somewhere?

Lest you think I am just a completely sour old grump when it comes to Zoom I want you to know that I did come away from it with a certain inspiration. As my mind wandered throughout the movie I thought about possible product tie-ins that the studio might want to try. They always seem to want to market merchandise to the public so we that can identify the product with the movie and it occurred to me that the *perfect* hook would be to make a deal with Proctor & Gamble to release a new fast-acting laxative called Zoom. Just like sitting in the movie, within five minutes you’re going to know deep down inside what crap really feels like.

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