Review by Dustin Putman
2 stars out of 4
Both a teen romance and a story about having the ability to literally
stop time in its tracks, "Clockstoppers" is a family-friendly fantasy
that ends up doing very little with its imaginative premise. Following
a few novel scenes in the first half that take clever advantage of
these ideas, screenwriters Rob Hedden, J. David Stern, and David N.
Weiss put on autopilot as they deliver a tired action-movie climax.
Dr. Earl Dopler (French Stewart) has made a major scientific breakthrough
with a process he calls "hyper-time," which gives a person the ability
to move so quickly that it appears everything around them has stopped.
In an attempt to solve the quick human aging that accompanies the
use of "hyper-time," Dopler sends one of these special watches to
his mentor, Dr. George Gibbs (Robin Thomas). With George away on business,
his teenage son Zak (Jesse Bradford) stumbles upon the powers of the
watch, using it as a means to impress his dream girl, Francesca (Paula
Garces). Unfortunately, when the secret government Dopler is working
for, headed by Henry Gates (Michael Biehn), discovers that the watch
is missing, they go after Zak and Paula to retrieve it.
Directed by "Star Trek" alum Jonathan Frakes, "Clockstoppers" stands
as a minor diversion that loses its way after a promising first half,
and gradually disappoints with each mounting inconsistency in the
plot. The idea of "hyper-time" is a fascinating one, and some of the
special effects are rather cool to look at, as Zak and Francesca make
their way around a city of people, cars, animals, and water that have
seemingly come to a standstill. After a while, though, the many contradictions
in this logic begin to bog the proceedings down. Things that regularly
would move at a plodding pace can be seen slowly moving while in "hyper-time,"
while really fast things, such as the cars on the road and a fan,
don't appear to be in any sort of motion at all. The speed of things
in this time state, it seems, do not move based on scientific reason,
but on whatever is convenient for the plot.
Director Frakes loses his way in the second half, forgetting the magic
of the opening scenes in exchange for jumbled and cliched story developments.
The finale, especially, is a hodgepodge of messily thought-out science-fiction
elements and dull-witted action setpieces.
What does work to a more successful degree are the attractive performances
and nicely subtle chemistry between Jesse Bradford (2000's "Bring
It On") and Paula Garces (1995's "Dangerous Minds"), as Zak and Francesca.
For a movie primarily targeted at pre-teens, the delicate romance
that blossoms between the two is charming. One scene, in particular,
set to Uncle Kracker's surprisingly good cover of the '80s Cyndi Lauper
song, "Time After Time," is lovely. When the ill-fated plot finally
goes into overdrive by the one-hour mark, the promising treatment
of Zak and Francesca's relationship is put on the back-burner.
While undiscriminating pre-pubescent tweens may find a lot to be entertained
with in "Clockstoppers," everyone else should be able to pick up on
all of the sloppiness found within the screenplay. Whether the budget
simply wasn't generous enough to let the filmmakers use more mileage
out of its intriguing key conceit or not, "Clockstoppers" simply doesn't
make the cut. What a shame it is to take such original ideas, and
then recklessly cobble them together with boring fight scenes and
chases that we've seen a hundred times before.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman