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Laramie Movie Scope: Clockstoppers

A juvenile story about moving too fast to be seen

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 4, 2002 -- "Clockstoppers" is a visually exciting sci-fi film which suffers from a lackluster screenplay. The premise of hyper-velocity is interesting, but nothing interesting is done with the concept. Kids with the power to move so fast that others can't see them end up playing trivial pranks before being caught up in a plodding spy caper plot. The story makes "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" look brilliant by comparison.

"Clockstoppers" is about two kids, Zak (played by Jesse Bradford of "Bring it On") and Francesca (Paula Garcés of "Harvest"), who discover a spy gadget watch which enables them to move so fast that the rest of the world stands still. The watch is part of a super secret CIA project to create a corps of high-speed spies. Soon government agents are on the trail of the kids trying to get the gadget back. More complications set in when it turns out that the government agents are part of a renegade "black ops" outfit out to take over the world, led by a megalomaniac named Gates (Michael Biehn of "The Art of War").

The best thing about the film is the special effects. The effects include freezing the action of most of the people, cars and other objects in the frame, while allowing the hyper-speed characters to move through the scene, interacting with the frozen people and objects. This is accomplished with a lot of bluescreen shots, digital effects, wires and other new and old movie tricks. The DVD of the movie has an excellent "making of" featurette that explains how one effects sequence was done with a bluescreen (actually a green screen), wires and a large number of rapid sequenced still camera shots. In the finished scene, the character flies through the air at hyper-speed, is hit with a blast of liquid nitrogen while in the air, slows down and lands.

The acting is not bad, but there is no real character development. The direction by Jonathan Frakes ("Star Trek: Insurrection") isn't bad either, but it is like my old editor used to say, you can't make chicken salad out of chicken droppings. Everything starts with the script and this one is made out of chicken droppings. The basic idea is good, but it sputters and never really takes off. Clearly, the filmmakers hoped they had another "Back to the Future." All they lacked was a clever plot and memorable characters. This film rates a C.

The DVD comes in a widescreen anamorphic format. In addition to "The Making of Clockstoppers," there is a copy of the theatrical trailer and two music videos, "Holiday In My Mind" by Smash Mouth and "It's The Weekend" by Lil' J. The dual-layered DVD has Dolby (tm) Digital 5.1 English, English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) and French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) soundtracks to choose from. It also has English subtitles and is closed-captioned.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2002 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)