'Zoom'

EntertainmentMoviesCompanies and CorporationsRip TornMichael CassidySony Corp.Courteney Cox

Many families have one meal a week that's all leftovers. The bits and pieces from the past four or five meals get tossed together in the oven, sometimes in the same casserole, and then it gets served up on its own. The meal itself may not be any good, but there's some minor pleasure in identifying which meals the tuna, the ground beef, the rice and the pasta originally came from. Sony's new superhero comedy "Zoom" is the cinematic equivalent of those reheated leftovers.

Captain Zoom (Tim Allen), is a once-speedy, down-on-his-luck, out-of-shape former superhero working as a particularly slow mechanic. He's recruited by a shadowy government organization -- Rip Torn represents the military side of things, while Courteney Cox and Chevy Chase play scientists -- to come train a new generation of talented and gifted kids to fight a generic adversary that doesn't become relevant until the last 10 minutes. There's the adorable lisping girl with super strength (Ryan Newman), the somewhat moody rebel guy prone to going invisible (Michael Cassidy), the outcast telekinetic high school girl (Kate Mara) and the tubby kid who can engorge different parts of his anatomy (Spencer Breslin). Can they all become a team and help Captain Zoom rediscover his inner hero. Yes. Of course they can.

Marvel was the only company to actually sue the makers of "Zoom," claiming that the similarities to the "X-Men" franchise were too great (the sides settled). And sure, the stuff about mutant kids with motley powers learning to harness their skills has a bit of a Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Mutants vibe, but the greatest misfortune for "Zoom" is being released two years after Pixar hit a creative high with "The Incredibles" and one year after "Sky High," a woefully underappreciated gem of a movie that succeeded on every level "Zoom" fails.

Featuring a bizarrely dated soundtrack fueled by original music from Smash Mouth (how very 1998), director Paul Hewitt and screenwriters Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum seem to have conceived of "Zoom" as a film of montages. I stopped counting after a half-dozen. The neatest thing about the various musical training sequences is that they appear to have been tossed into the film at random intervals without any regard to plot or character. Captain Zoom is supposed to be reticent to deal with his young wards and he's supposed to treat them with apathy, which is a difficult emotional arc to understand when the film cuts from a montage of Captain Zoom cheerfully playing softball with the kids to a character saying, "You shouldn't be so hard on them." Huh?

It doesn't help that the entire movie is self-contained in an anonymous bunker facility somewhere -- "Zoom" probably looks cheaper than it was, which won't make Revolution happy -- nor that the main characters don't actually have a story arc, despite all of the montages. There are no disagreements between the kids and the mastery of their powers takes to time at all. Allen's character is also too soft, almost from his first appearance, to make his transformation worth the effort.

On the whole, the entire movie lacks the satirical edge that Allen and company brought to "Galaxy Quest" and what few in-jokes and stabs at adult humor there may be are drowned in gags built around burping, mucous and other sops to the smallest of viewers.

It's good to see Chase back on the big screen and taking ample physical abuse. I also think it's time for somebody -- film or television -- to find a proper starring vehicle for Mara. On the other hand, it's Spencer Breslin has clearly be usurped by younger sister and "Little Miss Sunshine" star Abigail and I'm not sure I need to see him in any more movies until puberty has taken its course.

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