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'Clockstoppers'

Pace is all over the place in 'Clockstoppers'

Friday, March 29, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

In "Clockstoppers," a high-school senior gets his hands on an amazing invention that seems to freeze time. Actually, it speeds up things for the wearer and anyone in contact with him. Their molecules move so fast that no one in real time can see them. To those in hypertime, everyone else seems to be standing still.

 
 
'Clockstoppers'

RATING: PG for action, violence and mild language.

PLAYERS: Jesse Bradford, Paula Garces, French Stewart.

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Frakes.

WEB SITE: www.nick.com
/clockstoppers

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The problem is that the plot seems to move in real time while the cast and audience are all hypered up. Director Jonathan Frakes (yes, the "Star Trek" guy) and screenwriters Rob Hedden, J. David Stem and David N. Weiss take a bit too long in getting the story line fully operational.

This is not entirely a bad thing. Unlike most movies of this type -- especially those aimed at young people (this one's from Nickelodeon Movies and it's rated PG, so it's definitely kid-friendly) -- "Clockstoppers" tries to draw realistic characters and takes the time to introduce them.

It also employs as its lead actor Jesse Bradford, who was sensational as the teen-age star of Steven Soderbergh's little-seen 1993 classic "King of the Hill."

Now 22, Bradford plays an older teen, Zak Gibbs, whose dad (Robin Thomas) teaches science and tinkers with inventions. Like many fathers and teen-age sons, they don't always see eye-to-eye, each obsessed with his own immediate concerns.

Before leaving for a scientific conference, Dad receives the hypertime wristwatch in the mail from a former student, Dopler (French Stewart), seeking the older man's expertise. Zak doesn't know what it is when he happens upon it and takes it along on a date with the fetching Francesca (Paula Garces). They soon discover the delights of hypertime, complete with some nifty special effects involving water sprinklers.

They don't know that a rogue research corporation is holding Dopler as a virtual hostage and plans to steal the technology for itself, once Dopler figures out how to retard the aging effects of prolonged exposure to hypertime.

Once the head villain (Michael Biehn) learns what Dopler did with the watch, Zak and his dad (and anyone involved with them like, say, Francesca) suddenly find themselves in danger. You can pretty much guess how things transpire from there as the teen-agers go to the rescue, which has its share of implausible moments.

The movie includes some interesting action scenes in which the heroes and villains chase each other in hypertime while the rest of the world meanders on in real time. We see it from both points of view -- the hypers maneuvering around the slowpokes, the slowpokes trying to figure out what invisible havoc is being wrought around them.

But in the opening sequence, when Dopler tries to escape only to be captured by hypertime bad guys, we have no idea why he didn't get away because we don't know what hypertime is, what it looks like to those in real time or even what Dopler is running from.

We don't find out until Zak's date with Francesca, and then the movie puts the technology to silly teen-age uses, like helping Zak's friend Meeker (Garikayi Mutambirwa) win a DJ contest. Much of this plays like filler -- the screenwriters simply don't have enough story to fill even a 94-minute movie.

The best thing about "Clockstoppers" is how, except for Dopler (hey, it is French Stewart after all), none of the characters is reduced to tired stereotype. Zak's clearly older and smarter than most movie teens. His dad is not the idiot-savant absent-minded professor type usually portrayed by the likes of Jeff Goldblum. Even the bad guys don't act like they should be twirling their mustaches and tying maidens to railroad tracks.

Now if the filmmakers could just have gotten the plot into hypertime sooner.

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