'Clockstoppers'

In a more eco-minded Hollywood fantasy world, every suburban house would have a special centralized recycling kitchen where families would reprocess all the congealed oatmeal and cold eggs that don't get eaten because Junior has to dash out to save the world.

One's heart goes out to Julia Sweeney, a captivating comic playing a reasonably hip mother who is stymied in her efforts to get her kids to eat their breakfast. Needless to say, she is not the star of "Clockstoppers," a movie in which parents merely set the stage (and the table) for the heroism of their more global-minded children.

To be fair, her resourceful teenage son Zak (a cocky and confident Jesse Bradford) has little more on the brain besides girls and cars at the outset of this jaunty sci-fi adventure. His science professor dad (Robin Thomas) is always pushing his son to get more serious with his studies, but Zak would rather be putting the moves on Francesca (Paula Garces), the gorgeous daughter of a Venezuelan diplomat who has just moved to town. Unbeknownst to Zak, Dad and a partner have been researching a high-tech watch that speeds up the molecules of the wearer to such a degree that others appear to be standing still.

Zak accidentally obtains this "hypertime" watch, and finds himself the target of an evil technocrat who wants to use it to conquer the world.

Most of the freeze-frame special effects in "Clockstoppers" revolve around people playing statue and sprays of water (or other less seemly liquids) being halted in midair. One wishes that the screenwriters had devised more inventive ways for Zak and Francesca to toy with their magical gadget than helping a friend win a scratch contest at a hip-hop club or vengefully repositioning a dog stopped in the act of relieving himself.

Still, "Clockstoppers" is exceptionally user-friendly for the technologically challenged among us and rides over its less inspired patches on a wave of cheeky humor. Directed with verve and an eye for off-center casting by Jonathan Frakes, the film boasts one of the more determinedly vivacious sci-fi families in a spell. You have to wonder what Sweeney is slipping into her kids' cornflakes. If they ever finish them, there's no telling what they'll be able to accomplish.

*

MPAA rating: PG, for action violence and mild language. Times guidelines: The pace of this family entertainment may confuse the youngest tots.

'Clockstoppers'

Jesse Bradford...Zak

Paula Garces...Francesca

French Stewart...Dopler

Michael Biehn...Gates

Robin Thomas...Dad

Julia Sweeney...Mom

Garikayi Mutambirwa...Meeker

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present a Valhalla Motion Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies production, released by Paramount. Director Jonathan Frakes. Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Julia Pistor. Executive producers Albie Hecht. Screenplay by Rob Hedden and J. David Stem & David N. Weiss, story by Rob Hedden & Andy Hedden and J. David Stem & David N. Weiss. Cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt. Editor Peter E. Berger. Costume designer Deborah Everton. Music Jamshied Sharifi. Production designer Marek Dobrowolski. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

In general release.

*

Jan Stuart writes about film for Newsday, a Tribune company.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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