C-

Zoom

Fox reportedly considered legal action over the similarities between Sony's new (shudder) Tim Allen vehicle Zoom and Fox's mutated cash cow X-Men: The Last Stand. That seems strange, since Zoom more closely resembles Disney's superior Sky High, another family-friendly adventure-comedy about misfit superhero teens learning how to use their special powers. In Zoom, however, the teens are joined by a pair of precocious pre-adolescents—a butterball who can make parts of his body expand dramatically (insert porn joke here), and a wisping, adowable, super-strong widdle girl who loves to play dress-up—so the film can cash in on the Spy Kids market as well.

This summer has seen enough cinematic superheroics to give even the most committed comic-book convention-dweller a serious case of superhero fatigue, and Peter Hewitt's listless Zoom does nothing to reinvigorate the flagging subgenre. Allen plays a washed-up superhero who long ago traded in derring-do for bitterness. But when dorky scientist Chevy Chase, pretty lady scientist Courteney Cox, and scowling, possibly inebriated general Rip Torn (honestly, who'd blame him if he showed up wasted every day?) offer him half a million dollars to train a quartet of superpowered youngsters, he seizes the opportunity. Smug jerk Allen initially fires off an extensive string of mean-spirited one-liners, but before long, he's doling out valuable life lessons and learning to believe in himself, between frequent montage sequences set to Smash Mouth songs. If the fact that Zoom was helmed by the director of Garfield: The Movie doesn't scare away responsible, discriminating parents, Smash Mouth's "songs by" credit definitely should.

Zoom follows a depressingly familiar family-film arc: First come the booger and fart jokes—a rejected would-be superhero is named "Jupiter The Gas Giant," and not because of his ability to telekinetically control international oil prices. Then there are the big dramatic moments and twinkly piano music, and then finally, the big action climax. Zoom suffers from following three X-Men movies and Sky High, but even if it preceded them, it'd still qualify as little more than a cheap, ugly, forgettable footnote to the seemingly endless superhero boom.

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