Zoom (2006)

I laughed a lot during Zoom. Perhaps that wasn’t the intent, but I most certainly did. I had fun with this family friendly superhero movie, and it was almost entirely due to Tim Allen in the lead role. His complete lack of interest in any event that happens in the film actually winds up doing more to save it than anyone or anything else. That’s very weird, when you think about it. Still, his blas√© attitude about most of its proceedings is what endeared me to his character. I felt the same way.

In the introductory scene, told like we’re flipping through several volumes of the least engaging comic book series ever, we learn that superheroes exist in this world, and there used to be a team of them that went around and … fought crime, I guess. It wasn’t really all that clear why they became a team, except that the military put them together. One of them, Concussion (Kevin Zegers), turned on the group because of the Gamma-13 that he was being pumped full of by the military. He was defeated, and presumably killed, and we’re now a good deal removed from that. Unfortunately, he wasn’t actually killed, and he’s about to return to earth in a few days.

Zoom (Tim Allen) is the only one of the team who is still alive. He’s lost most of his powers, and is basically just living day to day. He’s recruited by the same military, as well as a clumsy scientist named Marsha (Coutney Cox) to train a new bunch of recruits — the unpopular kids, basically — in time to defeat Concussion when he gets back to earth. Artificial time limit? Check. Reluctant hero? Check. Outcast kids who need to learn how to harness their powers? Also a check mark. You can see how this was pitched to the studio.

I’d list the kids, but they’re actually not as important as you might expect. They’re essentially a collection of the most basic of superpowers — invisibility, telekinesis, super strength — without a personality among the bunch. The film is Allen’s, anyway, and about his character learning that the moping he’s been doing for the last couple of decades doesn’t benefit anyone.

There are a couple of problems with that basic idea. The first is that Zoom is far funnier when Allen is being snarky and sarcastic about what’s going on. At least, that’s when I was laughing. Maybe that will be different for other people. The second problem is that the film dwells on that single idea for its first hour, meaning we only get twenty minutes to wrap it all up after the life-changing revelation occurs. And what an anti-climax that finale is, folks.

Seriously, though, when you build up this massive enemy for the better portion of 80 minutes, and then the battle you get is like the one Zoom delivers, something has gone terribly wrong. I get that it’s a kid’s film, and you can’t have a ton of violence, but this was a huge letdown. The film wants us to believe that Concussion is someone who could destroy the planet, but he shows up and barely even seems menacing. Once all character issues are resolved, and we finally get to what should be a pretty fun battle scene, we get absolutely nothing of value.

I can see the argument that could be made: Concussion isn’t the real villain of the film. That title goes to either (1) the “evil” military who wants to pump children full of potentially lethal doses of Gamma-13 in order to create a personal army or (2) the personal issues that Zoom has to overcome. The military basically doesn’t play into it for most of the time, so I can’t take much consideration into that. As for Zoom needing to stop being such a baby … it’s essentially just that. He has little reason to actually be such an “awful” person; he really just needs to grow up. It’s not enough to drive a movie, but Zoom seems to want it to do just that.

In fact, it’s so focused on Tim Allen having to teach the children some life lessons that it neglects to have much of a plot, any real action scenes, supporting characters that are more than stereotypes, or even good special effects. I suppose it’ll accomplish the incredibly low goals that it aims to achieve, but it’s simply not entertaining, even for most of the children in the audience.

Tim Allen is a likable person. Seeing him attempt to be snarky is so funny even if the intent wasn’t to make you laugh. Some of the one-liners in Zoom are clever, and seeing Courtney Cox play a scientist works just slightly better than when Denise Richards did it. Of the children — whose roles are basically throwaway for all the good they accomplish — the two older ones (both adults playing younger), Michael Cassidy and Kate Mara are fine while the younger ones, Ryan Newman and Spencer Breslin, don’t show well.

Zoom is a worthless movie, but I’d be remiss to not mention that, regardless of its intentions, I did laugh a good number of times during its first half. Sure, things like story, characters, action, and decent special effects are thrown away to see Tim Allen mope for an hour before a pathetic excuse for a climax happens, but at least I had a little bit of fun laughing at the film’s expense. Even with that said, Zoom will bore most of its potential audience, even the young ones to whom it’s trying to appeal.

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