Zoom: Academy for Superheroes
Zoom is a 2006 American family superhero adventure film based upon the children's book Amazing Adventures from Zoom's Academy by Jason Lethcoe. Directed by Peter Hewitt, the film stars Tim Allen, Courteney Cox, Chevy Chase, Ryan Newman, Kate Mara, Spencer Breslin, Michael Cassidy, Kevin Zegers, and Rip Torn. It was written by Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum. It was released theatrically on August 11, 2006 by Columbia Pictures.
Decades before the start of the film, the Zenith team are five young superheroes who fought to protect the world from evil, led by Jack Shepard, a.k.a. "Captain Zoom" or "Zoom", who possessed super-speed, and his older brother, Connor Shepard, a.k.a. "Concussion", who could project sonic blasts. The American military sought to enhance the team's powers using an experimental form of radiation called "Gamma-13". This made Zoom faster and stronger, but it also turned Concussion evil. Thinking Zoom and the team betrayed him, Concussion went insane and killed his teammates Marksman, Ace, and Daravia. Concussion was believed to have been destroyed by Zoom at the cost of his powers, but he had been sent into another dimension instead.
Thirty years later, Dr. Ed Grant, the scientist behind the original Zenith Project, discovers that Concussion is making his way back into their dimension. General Larraby, the military officer in charge of the Project, decides to form a new Zenith Team to fight him. Jack finds himself dragged back into the Project, this time as an instructor. He is told that a new team is needed to battle a great menace but is not told what it is. He is also told that if natural training does not prepare the new team in time, they will be exposed to Gamma-13. In their secret base, Area 52 (a reference to Area 51), he meets Marsha Holloway, who is a beautiful but clumsy psychologist, a big fan of Zoom's, and knows of him only through the comic book adaptations of the team's adventures.
The project holds an audition of would-be members, most of whom possess useless or disgusting powers. In the end, four auditioning kids are selected: Dylan West, a seventeen-year-old boy possessing invisibility, Summer Jones, a sixteen-year-old girl with telekinetic powers and empathic senses, Tucker Williams, a twelve-year-old boy who can enlarge and inflate himself at will and Cindy Collins, a six-year-old girl with super strength. All four of them are shown as having problems adapting to normal life because of their powers. At first, things do not go well, with Jack being bitter about the past, and his sarcastic attitude disappoints Marsha. Dylan keeps trying to escape, Tucker has self-esteem problems and trouble controlling his powers, and the kids are annoyed by Jack's attitude. The team eventually forces Jack to face the fact that he's not really putting his heart into their training. Slowly things begin to come together, as the new team's abilities improve, they adopt superhero identities.
Eventually, just as Concussion is about to arrive on Earth, it is discovered that Dylan also possesses a kind of clairsentience, also known as mindsight, a rare power exhibited by a team leader that allows him to discover not only Concussion's location but also the project's true purpose. The team is meant merely as a distraction from the military's plans to capture Concussion in a special net that will cause his concussive blasts to reflect on himself, neutralizing him. Marsha also reveals that she secretly possesses a form of super-breath, which appears as sparkly, rainbow-colored wind. She uses this power to aid the team in their escape when the military is about to transfer them to the Gamma-13 chamber for artificial power enhancement. Using the malfunctioning flying saucer stored in the base, which they repair on the way, Jack escapes with the team, including Marsha. He is dropped off at a point in a desert where Concussion will arrive, planning to try to talk to him. Jack tells the team to avoid, but they refuse.
When Concussion arrives, he refuses to listen to reason and attacks his brother with concussive blasts, while the rest of the team takes him on. Larraby orders the net to be fired, but Concussion blasts it away, and it almost lands on Cindy. This causes Jack to regain his powers, and he saves her. He then runs back to the base (tripping and rolling in the middle of doing so), puts on a new costume, and returns to battle his brother. Working together, the team (plus Marsha) guides Concussion into a vortex that Zoom creates by running around in a circle at super-speed in the opposite direction as before. Dr. Grant yells to Zoom that if he closes the vortex, they can save Concussion. The vortex ultimately removes the Gamma-13 from Connor and restores his powers to normal, thus turning him good again. Zoom and Concussion are reunited.
Three months later, Dylan is dating Summer, who is on the cheerleading team, using her telekinetic power to help build the pyramid. Tucker is the goalie on the soccer team, and Cindy is in a school play of Rapunzel, using her strength to pull the "prince" up the tower. In addition, they still work together with Zoom as the new Zenith Team.
Why It Sucks
- The film is completely unfaithful to the book it’s based on.
- The acting ranges from bland to terrible. An example is Chevy Chase mugging and making faces as if he's still headlining one of his 1980s comedy roles or Community. Another one is that Courteney Cox attempts a role that she was not fit for. Plus, Tim Allen has a lack of understood emotion. Kevin Zegers probably has the worst performance in the film, playing Captain Zoom's brother Concussion (who is young in the final act probably due to suspended animation).
- It steals ideas from Disney's Sky High, another live-action family superhero movie.
- The flash animation for the comic book panel scenes is very poor compared to Sky High.
- Jack Shepard's design and personality, in the beginning, rip off that of Tony Stark from Iron Man, with the same superpower speed from Dash Parr from The Incredibles.
- Speaking of ripoffs, three of four superheroes are majorly ripoffs of both The Incredibles and 2005's Fantastic Four, since the movie was released two years after The Incredibles and a year after 2005's Fantastic Four movie was released, as three of them have the same signature superpower abilities Invisibility (Violet and Sue Storm), Elasticity/Flexibility (Mr. Fantastic and Helen Parr aka Elastigirl), and Strength (Bob Parr aka Mr. Incredible and The Thing) as both movies superhero counterparts.
- The film relies on gross-out humor and unfunny jokes that go off in many ways. (eg. Jack sticks his vibrating goatee finger in an extremely disgusting milkshake, during the audition scene, one of the kids produces a green slime snot bubble from his nose which explodes on Ed Grant, one kid in the audition scene calls himself “Jupiter the Gas Giant” and letting out a wet fart. Marsha falls down a lot, Jack spits out his oatmeal into a mini bowl, and the first scene with General Larraby and Dr. Grant where Larraby says “Dr. Grant, I speak Greek, not Geek.”).
- It would make more sense if the kids were the protagonists and Zoom was their trainer but instead, it's reversed so that we’re following Zoom’s troubles and not theirs.
- Unlikeable side characters like Dylan West's teacher, and the bullies of Tucker Williams and Summer Jones.
- Scenes keep ending on non-jokes like this exchange: "No way!" "Way!" (that gets old very quickly and will get you on the nerve.)
- The film's title is misleading since it doesn’t take place at an academy from the book, but rather a secret base called Area 52. Therefore, the title of the film should’ve been Zoom: Secret Base for Superheroes.
- The characters are really unlikeable.
- Dylan's mindsight power is introduced in the middle of the movie, and used only once at the end, just so Jack can find out about Concussion along with the project's true purpose.
- It doesn't make sense in the opening sequence when Marsha says that the Gamma-13 radiation turned Concussion to the dark side since he's the only villain from "the dark side" which is plural. Normally there's more than one person on the dark side like in Star Wars, thus she should've instead said that Concussion turned evil.
- Dated special effects especially for the CGI being the worst offender. A great example would be the infamous "inflating bottom diving" sequence when Tucker jumps while inflating his bottom in the pool scene and when he later inflates his head and eyes in the audition scene.
- The first 45 minutes of the movie are just the various characters hating, roasting, and being horrible to each other.
- There's a large plot hole when Zoom breaks the kids out of their rooms to protect them from being radiated with Gamma 13. He tells them to stay out of sight. The next time we see the group they have been caught in the conference room.
- Some scenes make no sense at all. A perfect example would be when the kids approach Jack in awe after learning he's a superhero. Jack goes, "Because I'm not a superhero, there's no such thing as superheroes, no matter what people told you around here, you’re not superheroes." Of course, Cindy and Tucker are like, "WE'RE SUPERHEROES?" To which Jack replies, "You're definitely white kids, I'll tell you that." It’s never explained what the line means exactly.
- Embarrassing comic book cliches for the character dilemmas.
- Poorly designed superhero costumes (eg. the kids all wear white suits with Cindy even wearing a helmet and goggles. It’s never explained where the suits came from. Marsha wears a lab coat in the only fight scene of the film, Summer wears a pretty standard summer dress at the dance party, and the kids all wear yellow training outfits during the montages with a few exceptions such as when Cindy dresses up fancy).
- Most of the movie is montages of the kids doing training exercises and goofing around with each other, inner cut with scenes of Jack realizing how unsuccessful he's been and developing a relationship with Martha.
- There's only one fight scene in the film which comes at the end of the film.
- The fight scene of the movie lasts only nearly two minutes and was weakly made since all four kids in addition to Marsha only use their power once.
- It's never explained what Zoom's goal is. He doesn’t have one since he can’t leave the facility but he doesn't care about training the kids or becoming a better leader.
- Once everything’s been set up, the film immediately forgets what it was doing and wanders off; Jack is supposed to stop being selfish and start caring about the kids and the Zenith program, while the kids are supposed to come to terms with their uniqueness and embrace their powers. Neither of these things happens, at least not in front of us. Instead, we get random, unnecessary, illogical bits.
- The editing is bizarre since the scenes don’t end naturally as they just stop and a whirling Team Zenith logo flies at the screen as a transition. It happens over and over again, often in the middle of substantive conversations. The technique makes scene changes jarring. It gives the impression that the film is unfinished and it's a rough cut.
- Another example of the poor editing is when the Zenith Team is playing baseball; it easily looks like it’s a scene taken from later in the movie. For one thing, Mr. Pibb is there, even though he's not introduced until the next scene. Second, they're in the room with the UFO, but it's not seen until later. Third, two of the same shots of Dylan and Summer are used. Finally, Zoom's outfit is different than the last scene, but in the next scene, he's wearing the same outfit.
- Some of the montages are even poorly edited with random bits happening in between.
- Unnecessary product placement. For example, this movie has a scene that takes place at Wendy's which also has the Popeye's and 76 gasoline sign logos in the background in addition to one of the windows of the drive-thru having the Discover, Visa, and MasterCard logos, Summer uses telekinesis on M&Ms, Jack suggests Cindy get a juice box and a Rice Krispy treat, the kids have Firefly phones and a robot is named "Mr. Pibb".
- The concept of a former superhero rediscovering his powers and having to train 4 kids to help form a new superhero team is an interesting concept for a film if poorly executed.
- It has some good messages like "Work hard and you'll achieve".
- Tim Allen's acting is decent enough when it's very generic.
- Despite the constant usage of Smash Mouth songs, the soundtrack is otherwise pretty good.
- Some heartwarming moments like Jack saving Cindy and Connor in the battle near the end.
- It can unironically be considered a "so bad, it's good" film.
Zoom: Academy for Superheroes received generally negative reviews from critics and audiences alike. The film currently holds a 4% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 3 out of 10 and a critic consensus that reads "Lacking the punch and good cheer of The Incredibles and Sky High, Zoom is a dull and laugh-free affair." Jane Boursaw of Common Sense Media awarded the film two out of five stars and described the film as "Dull comic-book fodder for kids." Frank Swietek of One Guy's Opinion awarded the film an F rating and stated in his review "In terms of the age level, Zoom stands somewhere between Baby Geniuses and The Adventures of Pluto Nash, but it's just as bad as both of them." Director Peter Hewitt's career was sent into nowhere after this film imploded at the box office.
The film opened up at #9 on its opening weekend with a domestic gross of $4,510,408. The film later made a total domestic gross of $11,989,328. In foreign countries, it made $516,860. Overall, the film grossed $12,506,188 against its $75 million budget.
Awards and nominations
The film was nominated for one Golden Raspberry Award for Tim Allen as Worst Actor for this film, The Santa Clause 3 and The Shaggy Dog, but was beaten by Marlon Wayans for Little Man. Instead, the film won four Stinker Bad Movie Awards for Tim Allen, Chevy Chase, Spencer Breslin, and for being a Foulest Family Movie.
- The film's release was delayed due to a lawsuit filed by Fox and Marvel Comics. Zoom was initially intended to premiere two weeks before X-Men: The Last Stand, but it was alleged that the script for Zoom was too similar to the X-Men film franchise and would "confuse" viewers.
- Spencer Breslin revealed in an interview with Timothy Kandra (who did an analyzed review of the film) that he was disappointed with how the film turned out since it was different from what they filmed.