Time may pass ever so slowly watching this

Hypertime: Moviemakers exhibited little imagination in `Clockstoppers.'

Movie review

March 29, 2002|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Clockstoppers is an innocuous plaything of a movie about a high school senior (Jesse Bradford) who finds a watch that allows him to move so fast in "hypertime" that everything in normal time seems frozen. A quantum-technologies company called Q.T. (this is the week for cute names in movies) has been developing this and other hypertime devices for use as weapons, first at the behest and then to the horror of the National Security Agency. When the plot kicks in, Q.T.'s chief (Michael Biehn) kidnaps the hero's father (Robin Thomas) - who was the teacher of the machines' runaway inventor (French Stewart) - and forces him to perfect the time-freeze system.

The spunky teen, his beautiful one-day girlfriend from Venezuela (Paula Garces) and the cowardly inventor must spring the besieged dad from Q.T.'s headquarters and save the world. There's a subplot about the unmotivated, e-Bay-hustling teen-ager learning to respect his learned dad, but it's halfhearted, even perfunctory. It makes you yearn for the cliches of Father Knows Best storytelling. In this new-millennium young-adult movie, the preoccupied kid and the preoccupied parent must acknowledge their similarities. These days, nobody knows best. The message is: "Like Father, Like Son - Live With It!"

It's fun to see Julia Sweeney show up as the hero's mom, a sweet woman who knows her limitations (her idea of cooking is to serve packaged microwave meals on real plates). But the movie has too many minor notions and too little personality or follow-through - it's like watching a TV pilot that failed and knowing immediately why.

Even the hypertime effects are disappointing. In normal hypertime, everything around a Clockstopper simply halts, as if the whole world were playing statue; when a Clockstopper goes into double hypertime, he or she moves with a blur, like the Flash. But the moviemakers don't have the minimum imagination required to convey what happens when a Clockstopper in hypertime interacts with the movements of people and animals in real time. During these supposedly giddy scenes, the action mainly moves off-screen.

Apart from Garces' nymphet voluptuousness as the girl from Venezuela, the movie's only pleasantness comes from its evocation of a time when bearded eccentrics could gallop on a plane and police officers could be tweaked with pop-culture impunity - in other words, when America was on Easy Runway as well as Easy Street.

Otherwise, all you get are fetching little details. The Q.T. villain is called Gates, and the inventor works on an Apple computer. That's not enough to keep Clockstoppers from turning viewers into clock-watchers.

Clockstoppers

Starring Jesse Bradford

Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Rated PG

Released by Paramount

Running time 96 minutes

SUN SCORE

* (one star)

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