Zoom is a bad movie. I know it’s a bad movie. It’s badly written, badly directed, badly acted, badly edited, badly scored and beyond badly overdubbed. On nearly every level it’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen this year. And yet it’s strangely not unlikable — something I’m hard-pressed to understand.
All I can figure is that its sheer ineptitude generates sympathy — either that, or there’s a weird appeal to playing the “what did they think they were doing?” game. Not since SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004) and Son of the Mask (2005) has a movie scored so high in that last capacity. But those were painfully bad and Zoom misses being painful by a means so inexplicable that everyone involved might have found themselves up on charges of witchcraft in an earlier age. No, I’m not recommending you see this thing — far, far from it. I’m merely saying that should some misfortune befall you where you have to see it, it won’t be the worst thing that could happen. It’s not like Paris Hilton is in it, right?
OK, it does star Tim Allen and that’s usually not a good thing. That’s true here, too. But if you consider Allen’s recent admission that he’s unhappy about the fact that he has somehow become stuck in the realm of family-friendly PG movies, you almost feel sorry for the guy — a sorrow somewhat nullified by the reported $10 million-plus they bribe him with to make these movies.
Sympathy to one side, the attitude Allen expressed permeates his performance here. In his Disney films, Allen generally performs his assigned tasks with the precision of a trained seal. Playing Jack Shephard/Captain Zoom his dissatisfaction with the material is evident in every frame of his ill-tempered performance, and there’s a sense of relief when he is permitted the very occasional edgy comment. After one memorably bad outburst from cardboard villain General Larraby (Rip Torn in a performance that outclasses the heights of personal embarrassment he scaled in the 2001 movie Freddy Got Fingered), Jack remarks, “You’re awfully dramatic for a straight guy,” and the sense of Allen clinging to whatever comedic credibility he can muster is palpable. Unfortunately for Allen and the viewer, such moments are few and far between.
The plot is almost nonexistent. Washed-up superhero Captain Zoom is recruited by the Army to choose and train a group of X-Men rip-off kids to be the world’s new superheroes — it’s a job he doesn’t want. In part because he doesn’t trust the government, but the promise of $500,000 for his services tips the scales. (Sounds a lot like Allen’s movie career, doesn’t it?) Of course, life lessons will be learned and both Captain Zoom and the kids will emerge as better people in the process.
Apart from a mildly subversive tone — not in keeping with the mood of the times — concerning the movie’s depiction of the military as villainous, Zoom often seems like a series of montages in search of a movie. I lost track of the number of uses of lazy montage sequences that kept popping up to move the story along, but each and every one of them is propped up by an outburst of an Alternative Rock 101 ditty from the group Smash Mouth. The most memorable of these is a dreary cover version of the Queen/David Bowie song “Under Pressure,” included here for no discernible reason. The only advantage to these pop injections is that they momentarily free the soundtrack of Christophe Beck’s obnoxiously trite score.
When the movie isn’t marking time with this stuff or working from the kid-flick check list of flatulence, belch and snot gags, it tends to meander through purportedly comic scenes that often have nothing to do with much of anything. There’s a remarkably unfunny sequence that seems to exist only to give Chevy Chase — looking like he was embalmed three days before filming — something to do. The sequence consists of the kids trapping him in somebody’s grade-school notion of a weather simulator (since when does weather include landslides and skunks?), and subjecting him to assorted meteorological indignities. It goes nowhere and serves no function other than to eat up screen time.
Worse, the film is riddled with obvious — and badly done — post-production tampering. The dialogue has been altered or added to after the fact to such a degree that characters are occasionally “speaking” when their mouths aren’t moving! Did they change the story after shooting? Did they assemble the movie and realize it needed a few lines to make even marginal narrative sense? Did they shoot scenes and miss a page of script here and there without noticing? Who knows? Who really cares? Rated PG for brief rude humor, language and mild action.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke