Rated PG - Running Time: 1:34 - Released 3/29/02

Remember that episode of Star Trek when Captain Kirk's metabolism was sped up so fast that he flitted around the Enterprise like a fly while everyone else appeared to be standing still? Well, so does director Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Frakes, who has directed numerous episodes of ST:NG and a few of the Star Trek feature films, recycles the idea into a kids' film called Clockstoppers, written by Rob and Andy Hedden and J. David Stem and David N. Weiss. The film, produced by Nickelodeon Movies, is hopelessly juvenile in almost all regards, with its ultra-slo-mo effects easily the most interesting production aspect. The leading actors, Jesse Bradford and Paula Garcés, are beautiful twentysomethings who were chosen not so much for their acting as because they are beautiful twentysomethings, and 3rd Rock from the Sun's French Stewart and SNL's Julia Sweeney lend ever so little to the project by being the only semi-recognizable faces in the cast.

The story involves a spoiled young man named Zak (Bradford) whose distant relationship with his father, physics professor George Gibbs (Robin Thomas), stems partly from the fact that George is too caught up in his work to pay attention and partly because Zak is an insufferable jerk. (I don't think he's supposed to be, but Bradford's characterization is grating to say the least.) Zak's life changes, however, when he borrows a watch from his dad's laboratory that, when the right button is pressed, speeds the wearer up into "hypertime," accelerating the metabolism to the point that one can zoom about unseen while everything in "real time" slows to nearly a standstill. You know, kinda like taking Ritalin with Coke. The watch actually belongs to George's former student, genius scientist Earl Dopler (Stewart), who is being held hostage by government baddie Henry Gates (Michael Biehn). Being a good G-man, Gates wants to use the watch's power to take over the world, but Zak only wants to use it for good, like getting into the pants of school hottie Francesca (Garcés) and teaching his best friend (Garikayi Mutambirwa) how to breakdance.

Director Frakes steps triumphantly into the ring of Hollywood mediocrity with this effort, adding yet another entry to the vast and ever-growing cesspool of bottom-line-oriented kid films churned out in hopes of garnering more dollars while adding nothing to the enlightenment or enrichment of our species. Mentioning plot holes and bad acting would be almost too obvious; the target audience for this film is not supposed to notice or care about such things. Biehn's villainy is as cartoonish as Bradford's bicycle-mounted heroism, and the attraction between the two young leads is sterile and platonic. But the kids don't go to the movies for believable plots or realistic relationships; they want to see cool effects, and they get their (parents') money's worth on that score. **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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