Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Starring: Jesse Bradford, French Stewart, Paula Garces, Michael Biehn
If I was a 12-to-15-year-old boy, I'd probably love Clockstoppers, but if I was a 12-to-15-year-old boy, I'd probably think I was too cool to go see Clockstoppers (the Nickelodeon imprint alone would assure that). That's the curse of a movie like this: It's merely passable entertainment to an adult (think after-school special with better special effects) and too obviously aimed at kids to much attract its target audience. It doesn't help matters that Clockstoppers plays like two different films. The first part of the film -- once you strip it of its spy plot set-up and its vaguely high-minded take on a typical estranged movie father and son -- focuses on clever gimmicks. When Zak Gibbs (Jesse Bradford, According to Spencer) accidentally comes into possession of a watch that "stops" time (actually, it launches the wearer and anyone touching him into "hypertime," making everything else move so slowly that it appears to be frozen), the movie offers a set-up for some pretty neat effects and some clever, but predictable, gags. It's a lot like a 2002 version of Rene Clair's 1923 silent The Crazy Ray -- in other words, a showcase for inventive state-of-the-art camera trickery. Clair's film boasted a slightly mad scientist with a ray that could stop time or speed it up, and it fell to the scientist's daughter and a young man to stop him. That film also had some thematic depth, social insight and, best of all, was only 36 minutes long. Here, we have a watch that performs much the same feat with no depth and a 94-minute running time to flesh out. It's the 94 minutes that's the kicker. Since there's no way to support the basic concept for a feature film, Clockstoppers quickly turns into a pretty tepid kids-versus-spies opus. It would like to be Spy Kids, but --lacking the wit, style, creativity, or budget of that film -- it ends up being more like such indifferent offerings as 1985's Gotcha!. Clockstoppers is mildly entertaining, if you turn your mind off and pay no attention to logic, which is in short supply from the onset. Why would Dr. Earl Dopler (French Stewart, Love Stinks) -- who's running for his life -- waste time haggling with an airline -ticket salesperson and pay an exorbitant price for someone else's ticket to Costa Rica, when he's wearing his hyper-time watch that would allow him to board any plane he wanted or just take a ticket? The answer, of course, is that it suits the needs of the plot for him to behave in this manner. And that's pretty much the case with the entire movie. Paramount and Nickoldeon seem to have blown the whole budget on the special effects. This is especially evidenced by the distinctly lower-echelon cast of primarily TV and straight-to-video actors (Michael Biehn is the major exception to this), and the appalling high-school-drama-society make-up applied to French Stewart and Robin Thomas to make them appear old. All in all, Clockstoppers is a movie with some nifty effects that's hard to dislike, but equally hard to really like. It's mostly just there.