There's a scene near the beginning of Zoom that sums up the entire film quite nicely. A group of government scientists are holding "auditions" for a top-secret team of adolescent superheroes, and child after child steps up to the table and offers a demonstration of his or her preternatural powers. Preternatural powers like, say, blowing huge, poorly-animated bubbles of explosive mucus out of one nostril. And flatulence. And blinking fast. The pitiful thing is, these kids actually seem to think they're doing something super when they're clearly not. Not so with the filmmakers behind Zoom—they're clearly not doing anything extraordinary either, but they don't seem to have any delusions of grandeur. Despite whatever connotations its title might suggest, Zoom is a movie marked by pure laziness, made by folks who either don't know or don't care what they're doing.

It isn't an awful premise. If the sequence described above sounds reminiscent of something from Mystery Men, it's because this film is very much in the same thematic vein as that underappreciated comedy, as well as more recent flicks like The Incredibles, Sky High, and this summer's My Super Ex-Girlfriend, wherein the extraordinary and the mundane collide when regular folks find themselves thrust into being costumed crime fighters.

The posse of, um, superheroes, led by Tim Allen (right)

The posse of, um, superheroes, led by Tim Allen (right)

Of those films, Zoom shares the most common ground with Sky High. As in that movie, a group of supernaturally talented kids are trained to hone and control their powers and to use them for good. In this case, the kids are drafted by a secret military unit, and, unbeknownst to them, they are being groomed to defend the world from a rapidly-approaching threat, supervillain Concussion (Kevin Zegers). Their teacher is none other than Concussion's brother, legendary superhero Zoom, a.k.a. Jack Shepard (Tim Allen).

It's kind of a bland plot, and the kids have kind of bland powers. Dylan (Michael Cassidy) can turn invisible. Summer (Kate Mara) can move things with her mind. Tucker (Spencer Breslin) can inflate and enlarge his body. And six-year-old Cindy (Ryan Newman) has superhuman strength. The only thing blander than their powers is their personalities—or lack thereof.

Tim Allen and Courteney Cox try to save the day … but not the movie

Perhaps the best summary of the film's utter, dismal failure is that it simply doesn't live up to its genre classification as a family comedy—it's not particularly family-friendly, nor is it even remotely funny. It's the script that fails in both of these regards—Zoom is the kind of movie that's punctuated with frequent exclamations of "Cool!" and "Sweet!" Younger kids might find this kind of dialogue to be entertaining, but even the youngest of moviegoers won't laugh at the film's attempts at cleverness. "You're old!" exclaims one character to another upon seeing one another for the first time in thirty years—and the sad thing is, that's one of the film's better zingers.

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When the zingers do work, it's usually because they're sarcastic or even mean-spirited; most of these lines are spoken by Tim Allen's character, and, while they're mildly amusing at times, they're probably a little too edgy for younger kids. Combine that with a number of jokes about bodily functions and you've got yourself a film that will make some parents feel uncomfortable; there's nothing here that's quite as egregious as the double entendres of the Shrek films, but the PG rating should still be taken seriously by parents of very young children.

And that's all to say nothing of the cast. Tim Allen, Chevy Chase, Courteney Cox, and Rip Torn all show up here in pay-the-bills mode, and all four of them are disappointing—either because their performances are bad, or because it's depressing to see them stoop so low in the first place. Kids and teens who see the film will have a hard time believing that Chevy Chase was ever a genuinely funny, talented comedic actor; here he's subjected to spilling coffee on himself, being stuck under a rain cloud, and being skunked in the face. That kind of thing wouldn't even pass for humor on a current-day episode of Saturday Night Live.

Hey kids, I bet this robot could make a better movie than this one!'

Hey kids, I bet this robot could make a better movie than this one!'

Director Peter Hewitt patches the film together with a shaky, uneven hand. The beginning of the movie features an animated sequence of comic book-style action that gives the needed back story; it's supposed to be dramatic, or at least fun to look at, but it's really just boring. Later in the film, Hewitt tries to get the audience's adrenaline pumping by showing montage sequences of the kids' training, set to rock songs that were popular about five years ago, before radio played them into the ground. (It's telling that the film's most exciting moment is when Jimmy Eat World's mediocre song "The Middle" plays in the background.) There's even a scene meant to forge some kind of emotional connection with the characters, wherein Summer explains the significance of her favorite necklace, which was—you guessed it!—the last thing given to her by her parents, whom she hasn't seen in a long while.

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There's another scene toward the end of the film that sums up the proceedings fairly well. One character is imprisoned, and when the other heroes burst in to free him, one of them quips, "Hey, did somebody order an escape—with extra cheese?" Extra cheese indeed. There's nothing even close to super in this lazy, sloppily-assembled mess of a movie, which is memorable only for showing how far from grace its stars have really fallen.

Talk About It

  Discussion starters
  1. Discuss the character change that Jack undergoes. What do you think triggers his redemption
  2. Toward the end of the film, there are a few references to the importance of family. How does the movie illustrate the need for family
  3. What might the film illustrate for kids about being yourself? About using your talents and abilities?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Zoom is rated PG for rude humor, language, and mild action. There's nothing very violent here, but there's a surprising amount of mean-spirited joking and sarcastic humor. There's also some rather juvenile bathroom humor about certain bodily functions.

What Other Critics Are Saying
compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet

from Film Forum, 08/17/06

In what appears to be the worst-reviewed film of the year—Zoom—Tim Allen plays an over-the-hill superhero who must round up a bunch of supernatural youngsters to save the earth.

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "[T]he film, with its zippy action sequences, is entertaining if your expectations are kept low, though its kid-friendly themes of family and teamwork are handicapped by bland performances and a skeletal, only fitfully funny script, padded with strained slapstick humor and tedious musical montages."

Tom Neven (Plugged In) says, "[A]s the younger children in the theater I attended laughed at the slapstick and general silliness, I watched my watch and tallied up the lessons learned. …" He goes on to list the lessons, seemingly unimpressed with the package that contains them.

Mainstream critics—well, let's just say that you won't find a single "thumbs up" vote at Rotten Tomatoes. Jeannette Catsoulis (New York Times) says, "Too infantile for tweens and too stagnant for tots, Zoom bleeds boredom from every frame." And Kirk Honeycutt (The Hollywood Reporter) says, "A crashing, thudding dullness infects every moment of Zoom."

Our Rating
½ Stars - Poor
Average Rating
(not rated yet)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG (for brief rude humor, language, and mild action)
Directed By
Peter Hewitt
Run Time
1 hour 23 minutes
Tim Allen, Courteney Cox, Chevy Chase
Theatre Release
August 11, 2006 by Sony Pictures
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