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Newsday Staff Writer

Although he can save the day because he's a super-powered runner, Tim Allen can't carry the bantam weight of "Zoom" on his only-human shoulders.

Allen, who rarely seems to sign on to a movie that actually requires him to act — and not just act like a dad — waffles his way through a matzo-thin script in "Zoom," his character developed from point A to point A1 in about 90 minutes. Not even Chevy Chase as a bumbling scientist can manufacture a big laugh.

Because "Zoom" is essentially a comic book brought to life — perhaps it would've worked better with animation — there's a wowie-zowie sci-fi feel to the action and some nifty special effects to gape at. But because so many of the sets are so colorful and gay, it's a bit like watching a "Barney" episode instead of a cosmic duel.

Allen is Jack Shepard, formerly "Captain Zoom," a super-powered speed (as in fast) freak hero whose brother, Connor (Kevin Zegers), turned to the dark side (their words, not mine) on the final, doomed mission of Zoom's Zenith Team. Because Connor's about to return through some crack in the earth to wreak havoc, Jack/Zoom is hijacked by the military from his day job to train a bunch of gifted kids.

Gifted in the sense that one lad can make himself disappear. A teen girl with psycho-normal powers — echoes of Amy Irving in "The Fury" — can make objects move, and she does, for no apparent reason. Previously misfits among their peers, the super-powered kids become super-comrades; it's a nice touch.

Reluctantly Jack becomes involved in the save-the-universe project and learns to love/like the team, especially the sweet 6-year old (Ryan Newman) who can toss a pretty big desk into a plate glass window.

So that's the first hour. Although it's got a flying saucer that can do a Wendy's drive-through and a robot eerily like R2D2, the film lacks pace and rhythm. There's really just 15 minutes of content inflated into 90.

Courteney Cox Arquette is on screen a lot, as a kind of Momma Bear for the super-charged children. Toward the end of the film she reveals her own power: She can blow so hard at something — a pretty big desk, for example — that it will move.

The director of "Zoom" is Peter Hewitt, who also directed "Garfield." Nothing more to say about that.


MPAA rating: PG for brief rude humor, language and mild action.

A Columbia Pictures release. Director Peter Hewitt. Screenplay by Adam Rifkin, David Berenbaum. Screen story by Rifkin, based on the book "Zoom's Academy" by Jason Lethcoe.

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