August 17, 2006

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Zoom (PG)
Tim Allen gets up off the couch, brushes most of the Cheetos off his shirt and shows up to read a few lines for Zoom, a very weak superhero movie.

Add a few messages about sticking together as a family and a few leftover special effects from Sky High to the Sci-Fi’s Who Wants to be A Superhero? and you have Zoom, all borrowed Spandex and lousy acting.

Stan Lee’s acting (as himself) on that reality series is better than Tim Allen’s half-hearted check-collecting presence here. As Jack, formerly the superhero Captain Zoom, Allen is a rumpled, puffy version of the schlubs he’s played in Shaggy Dog and Joe Somebody. Zoom/Jack used to be a superstar of the superhero world but lost his team, his powers and his brother when governmental attempts to increase his abilities went awry. More than a decade later, the government wants Zoom back to help train a new generation of potential superheroes. They include a sullen teen boy who can disappear at will named (of course) Dylan (Michael Cassidy), a sullen teen girl who has mastered telekinesis named Summer (Kate Mara), a fat kid who can grow fatter at will named Tucker (Spenser Breslin) and a little girl obsessed with pink and princesses named Cindy (Ryan Newman), who can also lift and throw multiple tons.

Jack tentatively agrees to train them after the government offers him big bucks but, since he feels that the program basically ruined his life, he doesn’t take the job terribly seriously. His lackadaisical manner is particularly upsetting to Marsha Holloway (Courtney Cox), the nerdy scientist who, as a kid, idolized Zoom. Her nerdy heart is broken by Jack/Zoom’s indifference and by her fear that if his training isn’t successful the government will have to shoot these new kids with the same gamma rays that led to Zoom’s downfall.

Zoom also includes supporting parts by Chevy Chase and Rip Torn and, with the strange exception of Cox, everybody plays this movie like they were just handed their scripts an hour before. Every scene seems like it is the first take with absolutely no effort put into whether the lines sound realistic or the staging makes sense. Attitudes about the film seem to range from not caring (Allen, Chase) to confusion (all of the kid characters).

Cox is the one exception. As befits the nerd she plays, Cox seems geekily into her role, adding elements of sweetness and insecurity to her character that fill out Marsha’s personality beyond the one dimension the script gives her. The effect of a three-dimensional character in a flat, barely sketched world is jarring and, sadly for those coasting on her lab coat tails, not nearly super enough to save the film. D

— Amy Diaz


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