Take parts of Sky High, Fantastic Four, Galaxy Quest, and X-Factor and you may come up with something like Zoom. On the surface you would think that those inspirations would come together in an interesting concoction. Sadly they are all boiled down to their essence and had most of the entertaining pieces stripped away, then pieced back together in haphazard fashion.
The story behind Zoom would seem to be about forming a new group of superheroes to take on a forthcoming evil, highlighting the virtues of teamwork and everyone being special. It can also be seen as how the young are manipulated by their government for their own uses, little thought given to the effects on the young victims. Another way can to take it is as the redemption of a betrayed and bitter man, finding a new place in the evolving world. Any one of those would have made an interesting film, what we get is a mix of all of those things with none of them actually stepping up to provide the main theme.
The movie opens with animated comic book panels, with a voice-over giving us a history of the Zenith team. They were a group of superheroes, powered a radiation called Gamma 13, who battled forces around the world, protecting humanity. That is until the radiation causes one of the team to betray them. Move ahead to present day, it seems that the betrayer, called Concussion, wasn't defeated as had been thought, and he is making a return.
The government must prepare for the oncoming enemy. To that end, they want to form another Zenith team, and to train them they need the only remaining member of the old team, Jack Shepard. Shepard was known as Zoom in those days, now he is just a bitter man running an autoshop in blessed anonymity. Dragged back in, he must train the new team members, a little girl with great strength, a teen girl with telekinetic abilities, a boy who can enlarge his body parts, and a guy who can become invisible.
Zoom is a rather predictable collection of scenes. Zoom wants nothing to do with them – kids are sullen and angsty and precocious and are unsure as to why they are there. Government wants to do something to them that could kill them. Zoom has a change of heart and teams up with the kids, in the end a new family is created.
I didn't expect much from this, and to have most of those expectations missed is a shame. I liked Sky High, this pales next to that film. The story is all over the place, the focus shifts around, and there isn't enough given to developing any of the character personalities. We just lurch forward from scene to scene, hoping that they will make some sort of sense in the end.
Tim Allen stars as Shepard/Zoom, and while it was not a very good performance, it was some of his best work in years. He had a couple of decent scenes, and you could tell he put on some muscle to be a convincing superhero. So kudos to him for at least trying to look the part. His support includes Courteney Cox as a clutzy psychoanalyst, and Chevy Chase as a goofy scientist. Also along for the ride is Rip Torn as the general with the ulteriut motives. The kids themselves are not given much to do besides play their powers and act either angsty or precocious. They wear out their welcome relatively quick after the initial selection scene which seems to exists solely to gross out the audience, as we already know who the select few will be.
Half-baked and poorly executed Zoom is a poor attempt to cash in on the recent superhero successes. I like the idea of a light-hearted superhero film for the younger set, but we already had that with the previously mentioned Sky High. This one, at least in its current form, strikes me as unnecessary, a fact I am sure the studios would deny since I could be found in a screening (albeit one that only had me in attendance on opening Friday night).
Bottomline. I wanted to enjoy this, and with the exception of a couple scenes, I didn't. I cannot in good conscience recommend this. There is a better movie hiding in there, but Hollywood conventions conspire to tear down any good that may have developed. Skip this and rent Sky High.
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