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Clockstoppers

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rated: PG (For Action Violence and Mild Language)

Running Time: 93 minutes

Starring: Jesse Bradford, Paula Garces, French Stewart, Michael Biehn, Robin Thomas

Screenplay by: Rob Hedden and J. David Stem & David N. Weiss
Story by: Rob Hedden & Andy Hedden and J. David Stem & David N. Weiss

Directed by: Jonathan Frakes

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: The Making Of Clockstoppers, Lil' J "It's The Weekend" Music Video, Smash Mouth "Holiday In My Head" Music Video, 4 Promotional Spots, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (16 Scenes)

Released: August 13th, 2002

 

 

Zak Gibbs (Jesse Bradford) may seem like your average teenager: he seems like a decent guy, he wants a car, fights with his sister, is trying to score with the new foreign exchage student at school and has some angst when it comes to his father. After his father breaks a promise to him to see the car he wants over some business with a previous student of his and a convention of sorts to attend, Zak soon finds a watch that belongs to his father. It's no big deal to Zak, until he visits his love interest Francesca (Paula Garces) and accidentaly presses a few buttons on the watch.

There, Zak and Francesca learn that the watch isn't no oridnary watch, but rather, features "hypertime." The two originally think that time has stopped when engaged in hypertime, however, that's not it. Thanks to some science mumbo-jumbo, time hasn't stopped, but rather, it just moves really, really slowly. So anyone who has the watch on or touches the person when hypertime on gets affected. But if you spend too much time in hyper-time... you age. And you age fast.

Of course, with an amazing watch like this, somebody wants it and somebody else also shares the power in some form, such as Henry Gates (Michael Biehn). The evil man is after Zak, and this involves Zak's father's old student Dopler (French Stewart), a kidnapping plot and a bit more as he wants to perfect the watch and take over the world (the usual villian motive).

So this is "Clockstoppers." The film opened in the spring of 2002 to some pretty mediocre reviews, but it actually had some modest box office takings, not bad for a family film in a time when the film market is usually pretty slow (and again, pretty bad reviews). Despite what I've heard and read, I enjoyed "Clockstoppers." It's just a fun, nice movie that isn't dirty, doesn't resort to cheap jokes and is just very entertaining in its sweetness. It's something that will probably make the whole family smile.

The concept of the story is actually pretty interesting (I'm sure we've all wished that we could stop time at one point - or at least make it move slower), and is written pretty well. The characters are interesting, well developed and are compelling. Yes, there probably could have been more to the Meeker character (Zak's best friend) and the villain himself (that being Henry Gates), but I suppose they aren't the focus. The relationships between Dopler and Zak's father, and Zak with his father and Francesca, is interesting. Francesca is actually a nice girl who is willing to go through with what she feels with, which is a nice change of some damsel reluctantly going along on some crazy adventure. There are some funny and sharp lines in the movie actually, and while there could have been a little more for the big finale in my opinion, there's a decent balance between the plot scenes that set the characters and the ideals up and between some well done, action oriented scenes. Speaking of the action scenes, the special effects are great and are rather seamless.

There's a great cast which helps the movie fly even further. Jesse Bradford, who's done some supporting to major roles in the past, is going to be a breakout star in my opinion. He captures Zak's feelings for his father, his wants and his earnesty and how he deals when presented with the incredible situation of hypertime. He has great delivery and great chemistry with Paula Garces. She's a fine foreign exchange student in high school... even if she's close to the age of thirty in real life (no joke). Michael Biehn is fine in his role while the lovable French Stewart is nice and dandy as Dopler. Stewart's role is pretty big in the movie, but I would have even liked more of what he had to offer.

Jonathan Frakes, an accomplished actor who's probably best known for his role on the television hit "Star Trek: The Next Generation," directed the film. I think Frakes is a wonderful and talented actor, and while I haven't seen his previous directing efforts (I believe it's limited to "The Next Generation" series and the past two films in the film franchise of "Star Trek"), his talent for directing is quite excellent and wonderful as well. Though the film is a little uneven in its content, he handles this film quite well. Despite the far-fetched concept, the themes of the father and son relationship, the meaning of helping friends out and the like is handled very well. The themes aren't preachy at all and aren't overdone. They're done in a submersive, sweet way. The romance aspect with Zak and Francesca is done quite nicely too. All of this, in a good 90 minutes that's very well paced. Frakes makes it interesting, has great shots and really layers it all quite nicely (not to mention referencing his own famous acting work in a key line).

When it comes down to it, "Clockstoppers" isn't a bad movie at all. It's well written, features an excellent cast that really gets into the story, solid direction from Frakes and solid, family fun that's clean and friendly. Don't let the bad reviews turn you off. If you have children be it young or pre-teen, or you're interested in "Clockstoppers," do check it out.

 

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic, "Clockstoppers" looks really awesome. For a recent theatrical release, it sure has this clean and fresh look, only plagued by minor flaws. I suppose I'll get the messy out of the way first. First off, it's a tad bit soft in some scenes (usually the more darkly lit moments), and grain is somewhat noticable. A nice deal of shimmering and noise is featured throughout the print, plus some blemishes, scratches and your usual little flaws that can occur on the print.

Despite all of that, "Clockstoppers" features excellent fleshtones and a wide array of bold color saturations be it the club scene, the dark lab areas, the sparking city streets and much more. Black and shadow levels are downright pitc perfect, while detail itself is well done. This is a near perfect transfer that shines quite nicely. Well done, Paramount! Let's just hope families complain about the lack of full frame transfer... I'm sure it could have fit on the disc if they really wanted to have done so.

 

This is one excellent 5.1 Dolby Digital English mix. Anyone with a decent sound system who checks out "Clockstoppers" on DVD will be pretty much blown away with the audio it features. I have to admit I was only expecting a good mix... just not something really good. Thankfully, really good is the way to describe "Clockstoppers." Everything here is pretty much surround packed. The score from Jamshied Sharfi is not only excellent, but it's well mixed through the channels with appropriate dynamic range and fine subwoofer use. The contemporary cover songs and pop/ska/rock songs sound just as good as well.

Even better are the more action packed scenes, and believe me, there are a lot of those. You will feel that you're experiecing the madness of what the characters are going through, especially when hypertime is activiated. You'll feel sucked into some loud whirl, and it's really a treat for the ears. Just as good is the climatic battle stuff and the car chase. It's all active and even subtle effects, like cars pulling up to the curb, papers being thrown and footsteps. You really feel part of what the movie offers, making this one of the best mixes of 2002 and how it all stands out. Dynamic range and fidelity is excellent. There's great 360 degree effects too. Just plain strong and fun. Also included are English Dolby Surround and French Dolby Surround tracks, plus English closed captions and English subtitles.

 

I was watching television the other day, and saw an advertisment for this fine DVD. Too bad the television spot is more or less misleading consumers, as it claims there are "hours" of extra features (more like 25 minutes). I would have liked more extras (commentary and more on the special effects, perhaps?), but it's not exactly featureless... but it all tends to be on the promo side.

The main dish here is The Making Of Clockstoppers. It lasts nearly eleven minutes, with non-anamorphic film clips, a cheesy announcer voice and full frame interviews (plus some behind-the-scenes footage to boot). Executive producer Albie Hecht, producer Gale Anne Hurd, Jesse Bradford, Paula Garces, French Stewart, Michael Biehn, Julia Sweeny, Jonathan Frakes (who even makes a "Star Trek" reference in this) plus a few more. What the actors would do if they had hyper-time, the film's plot and some special effects are discussed here. It feels very promotional, sadly. Quite fluffy but a decent watch.

Everything else... really promotional (and I mean really). There are two Music Videos. The Lil' J "It's The Weekend" video is on the film's soundtrack... but it's flashy, uneven in it's music and uh, not too family friendly actually (but they slid by I believe sorta). The "Holiday In My Head" is a much better song and a cooler music video (even featuring Bradford and Garces). The "Holiday In My Head" video is in full frame while "It's The Weekend" is in non-anamorphic widescreen. Both are in two channel sound (in English, of course).

There are also four Promotional Spots that deal with the characters that serve to advertise the movie, and an excellent Theatrical Trailer in 5.1 Dolby Digital English that really captures what the movie is about (gotta love the Blink 182 in the background!).

 

"Clockstoppers" may not become an instant family classic, but it sure is enjoyable for the kiddie/pre-teen set and I think familes will enjoy some moments the film has to offer. Despite what I've heard about the movie, I found it to be a pretty strong, worthwhile and enjoyable movie (and I'm not even part of the key demographic that this film is aimed for!). There's some kind of sweetness to the film that makes it quite enjoyable, fun and entertaining. Casual viewers, families or if you want some good clean action, "Clockstoppers" is worth leaving some time for to check out.