tek's rating: ½

Zoom: Academy for Superheroes (PG)
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This came out in 2006, but I didn't see it until 2016. While watching it, I thought it wasn't quite what I expected, and later I realized that was because I was confusing it with the 2005 movie "Sky High," which I haven't seen yet. (I'm sure I've had roughly the same low level of interest in eventually seeing both movies, so I'm not surprised that I forgot there were two different movies with similar premises from around the same time.) I also find it worth noting that the cast includes people I was familiar with before the movie came out, as well as people I didn't become familiar with until sometime later, for things they did after this, but which I saw before this. (But then, that's not really uncommon.) And... looking online now, I see that this movie was pretty universally panned, which I think is a shame. I mean, it's not really good, but I don't think it's particularly bad, either. But I enjoyed it more than I expected to. In general, I'd say the writing was of below average quality, but not terrible. But I do think the cast all did the best with what they had to work with, and pulled it off better than could be expected. Of course, there may be other factors to my liking the movie, including the fun of seeing a couple of actresses when they were younger than I'm familiar with, and the soundtrack was pretty decent, and I did have a few beers while watching it. But still, I really do think it's a fun movie, regardless of the quality (or lack thereof).

It begins with some comic book exposition about a team of superheroes called the Zenith Team. Thirty years ago, the government decided to enhance the team's powers using "Gamma-13" radiation. And while I guess it worked for most of them, it ended up turning one member of the team, Concussion, evil. So there was a battle between him and his former teammates, that apparently ended in the deaths of everyone except the team leader, Captain Zoom, who was Concussion's brother. In the present, a scientist named Dr. Grant (Chevy Chase) informs a soldier named General Larraby (Rip Torn) that Concussion is still alive, and traveling through an interdimensional portal toward Earth. So they decide to recruit a new Zenith team, made up of misfit kids. There are tryouts for a number of kids with special abilities, but only four of them make the cut. They include 17-year-old Dylan West, who can turn invisible; 16-year-old Summer Jones (Kate Mara), who has telekinesis and some vaguely psychic ability; 12-year-old Tucker Williams, who... I'm not even gonna tell you his ability; and 6-year-old Cindy Collins (Ryan Newman), who has super strength. (Cindy is also a super adorable kid, made even more so by a childish lisp, which I kind of suspect is modeled on Cindy Brady... even though I'm not particularly familiar with "The Brady Bunch.")

Anyway, Captain Zoom had lost his super speed during the event 30 years ago, and since then he's just gone by his real name, Jack Shepard (Tim Allen). He's forced to return to "Area 52" to train the new kids, but at first he doesn't do much of anything. He's really kind of a jerk to everyone he meets (but at least he's a funny jerk). Also, there's a scientist named Dr. Marsha Holloway (Courteney Cox), who has been a big fan of Captain Zoom since she was a kid. So she was excited to finally meet him in person, but ended up being disappointed by the reality of what he'd become. Of course, over time, Jack starts to care about the kids and their training (which put me in mind of A League of Their Own). And he starts to care about Marsha (though early on, I thought he was kind of misogynistic toward her, that was probably just part of his general misanthropy). However, Dr. Grant and General Larraby had kept the reason for the revival of the Zenith Project a secret from both Jack and Dr. Holloway, and when they find out the truth... well, things take a somewhat dramatic turn.

And I guess that's all I want to reveal of the plot. But I will say that while some of the humor was kind of dumb, I found some of it actually rather funny. And while the characters and much of the story were rather clichéd, it still wasn't as bad as some people might have found it. I also gotta say that after watching the movie, I watched a bonus feature on the DVD, a series of short "Public Service Announcements" that involved a couple of buffoonish self-styled "superheroes" trying to help a couple of young girls with various problems. But they were just redonkulous, and each PSA would conclude with Cindy (aka "Princess") showing up to address the audience with some more practical advice. And I thought those PSAs were one of the best things ever. I'd definitely rate them higher than the movie itself. (Though to be fair, for the length, the movie was better than it probably would have been to watch 88 straight minutes of PSAs. So it's a good thing there were only a few of them.)

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