DVD Review – ‘Zoom: Academy for Superheroes’

     February 9, 2007

Reviewed by Jonah

I love Superheroes. So, apparently does Hollywood. As a long time comic book fan, I have seen Hollywood’s love affair with capes ebb and flow, in and out. The Superhero is definitely in again, in a big way. As such, it is hard to find many comic book properties that have not been put on the screen—large or small—or are not already in development. Some like SPIDERMAN are perfect Hollywood fodder, other’s like TANK GIRL fail to make the cut. The book ZOOM: ACADEMY FOR THE SUPER GIFTED by Jason Lethcoe seemed destined for greatness. Studio Sony that was developing the project had great success with the genre and seemed poised to bring the not totally obscure book into the light. They had assembled a top notch cast including Tim Allen, Courtney Cox, Chevy Chase and Rip Torn. The story centers around a high school for superheroes. Clever! And on the first day, a student worries about when their powers will show up. This student is supposed to be super, but isn’t. What makes a hero heroic? How hard is it to fit in as a teenager? How do you live up to the tough standards set by those who came before you? All of these were addressed in the comic and would have been addressed by the film if Disney hadn’t beat Sony to the punch with a similar film entitled SKY HIGH. (Hollywood also loves to repeat itself. Two asteroid…excuse me one asteroid and one COMET movie, two volcano movies, two superhero school movies.)

So, instead of following the plot of the comic, Zoom follows a retired, no I’ll say it, has been Superhero (Allen) recruited to whip a team of junior supers into shape. Zoom (Allen) has a humongous chip on his shoulder and blames the military (Torn, and Chase) for the disaster that befell his first team and for ruining his childhood—by denying him one. He worries that the same fate will befall the new team: Tucker Willams/Mega Boy (Spencer Breslin), Cindy Collins/Princess (Ryan Newman), Summer Jones/Wonder (Kate Mara), and Dylan West/Houdini (Michael Cassidy), but doesn’t really do much but complain. That is in fact most of what he does the entire film, whine about how hard life was, and blow everyone off, much to the chagrin of one of his biggest fans: Marsha Holloway (Courteney Cox)—mostly unbelievable as a super nerd. Eventually there is a happy ending. But the plot meanders there, and has more holes than the plot of the aforementioned asteroid film.

Video/Audio/Extras

The disk has two special features/extras. No really, just two. That’s it. Seriously. Check for yourself. See. Told you so.

BRINGING SUPERHEROES TO LIFE is your standard making of featurette. It’s not bad, or good, just mostly standard. It gives you the sense that there were plans for the film that were never realized. It also makes it look like the script was being written as they went along. (A feeling that is hard to shake when watching the film itself as well.) The actors and crew do seem to be having fun though.

The second feature is the best thing about the DVD. ACADEMY FOR SUPERHEROES GUIDE FOR KIDS is a series of PSAs which are hilarious—much more so than the film itself.

Those are the two features. That’s it. Seriously. No story boards. No commentary. No trailers. Nada. I’m not lying. I swear.

Final Thoughts

ZOOM’s collapse into mediocrity can be blamed on any number of reasons. Disney beat Sony to the punch with SKYHIGH. Screenwriter Adam Rifkin was responsible for the great idea/poorly executed SMALL SOLDIERS, and MOUSEHUNT. Director Peter Hewitt also directed Universal dud THUNDERBIRDS. Co-writer David Berenbaum penned Disney’s HAUNTED MANSION. And anytime you gather a cast full of such wildly and diverse talents you are playing with fire either it combusts well and you have a hit, or it explodes in your face. In the case of ZOOM it is the latter which occurs. Sony seemed to have a pretty good idea the film was a dud. There was very little marketing blitz and the DVD is sparse at best. Only the youngest viewers will really get into ZOOM, and even they might find the plot holes confusing. If you’re curious about ZOOM, do yourself a favor—skip the film and pick up Jason Lethcoe’s graphic novel instead.

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