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Zoom

Let's see, there is those "Spy Kids" movies and, of course, "Sky High." Certainly, "The Incredibles" and the "X-Men" movies gave generously. Hey look, there's Tim Allen to remind you he did something very similar in "Galaxy Quest," only that movie was amusing and fun. Because, alas, this Dr. F -- namely, director Peter Hewitt and writers Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum -- brings nothing to the creature other than ideas from other, much better movies.

A crashing, thudding dullness infects every moment of "Zoom," leaving a quartet of seemingly talented young performers and such old pros as Allen, Courteney Cox, Chevy Chase and Rip Torn to spin their wheels in comic quicksand. Allen's next movie is titled "The Escape Clause," and it looks like that will come one movie too late. "Zoom" plays best to children young enough to have never seen those other movies or the tired physical gags that accompany it.

Captain Zoom (Allen) is a former superhero, robbed of his powers and relegated to an auto repair shop as just plain Jack. Years earlier, a titanic battle between his Team Zenith and their nemesis, Concussion -- Jack's brother, corrupted by the effects of Gamma 13 radiation -- left everyone dead except Jack.

Only now Concussion, believed vanquished, is poised to return from another dimension in a matter of days. (You wonder what takes him so long. Don't sci-fi characters zip from one dimension to another in the blink of an eye?) This emergency prompts blustery General Larraby (Torn) and nutty scientist Dr. Grant (Chase), who has spent too many years in the lab, to revive the Zenith Program. Nerdy scientist Marsha Holloway (Cox, who does Chase's old act of falling down all the time) recruits four youngsters with the potential to become superheroes.

These are 6-year-old Cindy (Ryan Newman), who can lift and throw just about anything; Dylan (Michael Cassidy), a sullen but often invisible young man; Summer (Kate Mara), who is telekinetic; and Tucker (Spencer Breslin), who can expand his body parts at will. Jack is given the option of training these "special" kids or enjoying his stay in prison.

Bitter over the government's exploitation of him and his brother, Jack makes a reluctant teacher. But gradually the camaraderie with the kids and his growing attraction to Marsha snap him out of his .

The training sessions lurch ahead in fits and starts with scant narrative connection. Some scenes don't even logically fit, making you suspect that director Hewitt and editor Lawrence Jordan pulled this thing together in the editing room, using those scenes that fail the least.

Somehow no one delivers an embarrassing performance. The young actors acquit themselves well, and the veterans do their best with poorly conceived material. The youngest performer, Newman, is so precocious that she pretty much steals the show.

Production values on this Toronto shoot are cheesy, but what would be the point of making the design look better? That Ed Wood would have felt comfortable on this set is no doubt fitting.

Director: Peter Hewitt
Screenwriters: Adam Rifkin, David Berenbaum
Screen story by: Adam Rifkin
Based on "Zoom's Academy" by: Jason Lethcoe
Producers: Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Todd Garner
Executive producers: Nicholas Osborne, Trevor Engelson, Neil Machlis
Director of photography: David Tattersall
Production designer: Barry Chusid
Music: Christophe Beck
Co-producer: Julie Ragland
Costume designer: Ha Nguyen
Editor: Lawrence Jordan
Cast:
 Jack Shepard/Captain Zoom: Tim Allen
 Marsha Holloway: Courteney Cox
 Dr. Grant: Chevy Chase
 Tucker Williams/Mega-Boy: Spencer Breslin
 Connor Shepard/Concussion: Kevin Zegers
 Summer Jones/Wonder: Kate Mara
 Dylan West/Houdini: Michael Cassidy
 Cindy Collins/ Princess: Ryan Newman
 Larraby: Rip Torn
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