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SECOND LOOK: Zoom (2006)

Written by Mark Russell

I think I have found the worst superhero movie of all time. Released in the wake of The Incredibles, this sack of monkey muck of a movie Zoom is a heartless, soulless, absurdly pandering stupid mess that has the nerve to call itself entertainment. I don’t even remember buying this turd of a movie, but it somehow ended up in the back of the DVD cupboard, and I don’t recall how it got there. Something tells me this film’s “script” was likely stolen out of Robert Rodriguez’s garbage, as it attempts to replicate the charm of his movies but fails utterly miserably. At one point in the film, Chevy Chase has a skunk fart in his face, which is a metaphor for the experience of this film. It stinks. Howard the Duck has more value as a cult film than this bucket of bath grime. We’ll target that one another time.

The actors, or at least those who have some notable credits, are floundering with the low level quality of the script, the story is a confusing and dumb, not one of the characters is likeable or even developed, yet some people think this film should be let off because it is a children’s movie.

Well, I’ll tell you something, if you’ll allow me to get on my soapbox – when I was a child I grew up on some of the greatest children’s films of all time. I’m not saying that children’s films today are dreadful, but somewhere along the line, certain corners of Hollywood decided that children were so stupid and easily distracted that they could put any garbage onto the big screen and they would eat it all up. And you know what, they are. You have such travesties to cinema like The Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks, and they are making millions, while actual good films like The Secret of NIMH are forgotten in favour of cheap fart jokes. Anyway, let’s look at the film itself.

People have described Zoom as “Galaxy Quest meets the X-Men”. Well, I’ve never seen that movie but I know it is a popular cult film, and to even compare Zoom to both that and the X-Men feels incredibly infuriating. Zoom is based on a graphic novel Zoom’s Academy for the Super Gifted, and stars good old Tim Allen. I wonder how much money they dumped on his lawn to get him to star in this film. Zoom feels like an attempt to replicate the fun of the Spy Kids movies but fails on every conceivable level, for to make a good children’s movie (sorry, getting back on my soapbox), you need an engaging story, relatable characters, and actual heart and sense of understanding in the plot. Zoom has none of that.

So, on to the story. In a comic book-style prologue, a team of teenage superheroes called Team Zenith protected the world from evil, led by the super speedy Zoom (Allen) and his brother Concussion (Kevin Zegers). Anyway, the heroes are given a power boost via a radiation wave called Gamma-13. Yeah, we all know how safe radiation is. It causes Concussion to randomly turn evil for some reason, killing all the other team members save Zoom who whips up a whirlwind portal thingy and traps Concussion in what I assume is another dimension at the cost of his own powers. Yeah, the plot is extremely vague and confusing.

Years on, Concussion is confirmed to have gained enough power to escape his imprisonment and will likely destroy the world. To combat this, a very bored Rip Torn orders for Zoom to be brought back into service to lead a new superhero team made up of superpowered children. Zoom now runs a garage and is recruited by psychologist Marsha Holloway (Courtney Cox) and Dr. Grant (Chase), the alleged genius behind the gamma radiation experiment. Zoom is not too thrilled to be back, but agrees to work with the new generation.

Speaking of which, the children include Cindy Collins (Ryan Newman), a bratty six-year old with superhuman strength who is so nasty she makes Angelica Pickles look like a saint; psychic Jean Grey-wannabe Summer Jones (Kate Mara) who is socially awkward and outcast (poor Kate Mara. She can’t get a break.); Dylan West (Michael Cassidy) who can turn invisible and whose character consists of “rebel”; and fat kid Tucker Williams (Spencer Breslin) who can expand parts of his body, so that means plenty of fat and farting jokes galore.

So, we now have to spend the whole movie with some of the most irritating, bratty, obnoxious children in history with an equally unpleasant Zoom as well. You’d think these kids would be forming the new team, but they are not, at least not straight away since we have to go through a superpower display montage of the other candidates – there is a girl who can blink really fast and make others do the same (seriously?), a boy who can spit things out at lightning speed, one can fart, and another is Slimer as a human. So we have all the stock cliché jokes that are used to “amuse” children. This is the cheapest version of comedy you can get in a kid’s movie, and it is just dreadful.

Anyway, this film introduces a subplot essentially promoting child abuse where Rip Torn’s character, the archetypal asshole army general, wants to expose the new team to Gamma-13 to make them strong enough to fight Concussion. Oh, yes, General Dumbass, what a wonderful idea. Because it worked so well the first time you experimented on children. Zoom is openly against the idea, and yet has no problem at all acting like a jerk towards the kids. Sure, prevent them from being experimented on but treat them like trash. Not that the children are all that likeable characters to begin with. Summer and Tucker are tolerable, Dylan’s rebel status dries out within two minutes, and Cindy makes me want to rip out both my eyes and ears because she’s so annoying.

A rather unusual thing in the film is that all of the secret government files have been disguised as comic books. How bizarre. But even this quirk is poisoned when according to the comics, Zoom is faster than the Flash, Quicksilver, and Superman combined. Might as well call Zoom “Gary Stu”. The deliberate stupidity of every character in this film, even the extras, is enforced and insulting. This top secret military base is run by a bunch of morons and they are the ones being relied on to save the world. I haven’t even got to the UFO yet. Yes, a UFO. This is Area 51 after all. Or Area 52. I forgot which one it was. But then Zoom and the kids steal the spaceship and drive it through a Wendy’s drive-thru. Good grief!

If I talk anymore about this wretched movie, I’m going to scream, but thankfully I’m actually running out of things to discuss. Zoom is such a diabolically bad movie that it just gets increasingly slow and drags itself out. In the finale, the new Team Zenith confronts Concussion when he busts out of prison, Courtney Cox’s character reveals she can fire a Care Bear Stare from her mouth, and Zoom conveniently gets his powers back, allowing him to whip up a vortex that sucks in Concussion and somehow turns him good because the plot demands it. Yeah, like a supersonic vortex can remove the ill effects of radiation.

Okay, look, Zoom is meant to be a children’s film and likely meant to be harmless fun to entertain the little ones for an hour and a bit. And for the most part, it is, even if it is soul-crushingly dumb. But because this website’s purpose is to examine superhero culture, I am viewing this as a superhero movie. The characters are extremely irritating, they develop new superpowers as the plot demands, Concussion is a boring villain, and as much as I love Tim Allen, this is got to be something he keeps off his resume. All of the gags are on autopilot and sadly expected nowadays in children’s movies. The whole thing comes back to that scene where Chevy Chase has a skunk fart in his face. If someone asked me to describe Zoom in a picture, it would be that image. This film stinks.

Have you seen Zoom? If you have, then comment your nightmares of it below or on our Twitter feed. Now go watch something that’s more intelligent and respectable. Like Inside Out for example.

About the author

Mark Russell