If it's crap ... We'll tell you
When the government secretly hires a firm to produce a time-slowing device that would speed up a person's molecules so that they could travel at several times normal speed, a high school student ends up with the device and becomes the target of a manhunt to get it back.
Clockstoppers is the first feature film from director Jonathan Frakes
outside the Star Trek universe. The story revolves around a mysterious
watch with the power to speed the wearer's molecules and allow him to move faster than anything around him does. Scientist Earl Dopler sent a prototype of the device to friend and college professor George Gibbs to help him perfect the device. One afternoon, the watch accidentally falls into a broken toaster where George's son Zak picks up to take with him.
Zak has been trying to get a new foreign exchange student to go out with him. She finally agrees after he goes out of his way to stop some bullies from harassing her and agrees to have him come over to her house to help rake the lawn.
When he activates the watch, thinking it's a stopwatch, time slows suddenly and while taking the bag of leaves to the garbage can comes across a hissing possum. He pokes it and thinks it's dead and waltzes into Francesca's house to show her what he found that was invading the trash cans and his watch suddenly ends its time and everything goes back into standard motion. The possum isn't really dead and when he tries to explain, things get out of hand.
After figuring out what the watch does, Zak and friends go on the lam trying to escape the organization that's trying to get it back. They use similar watches, preventing him from using the watch as an escape mechanism.
Nickelodeon films, one of the production companies behind the film, have been known for good and bad movies throughout their feature film career and have managed to stumble across both an idea and a director that works. Frakes proved his capabilities with the feature film Star Trek: First Contact, a terrific film that shines among its fellow Star Trek films. Now, Frakes has branched further into the science fiction genre, stepping away from his small screen productions. He takes a potential childish and unemotional film, blends in the right amount of scientific explanation, avoids paradoxes adroitly and keeps the film excellently paced with plenty of room for enjoyment.
The performances are probably the weakest part of the film. Each actor does his very best to portray the characters realistically and perhaps their relative inexperience is a factor. Bradford has numerous credits to his short career, including Hackers, but smiles far too often for his characters needs and even when he's upset or angry, the tell-tale smile is nearby. Garcés tries her best, but with the broken English, she feels more like a caricature than a character, but she is awfully beautiful! The same goes for the third friend, Meeker, who is around for comic relief more than for dramatic necessity.
Television actors Stewart and Julia Sweeney, as Zak's mom, are capable
actors in their own rights, but for Stewart, this was a step in the wrong direction as he bounces well over the top of good taste in his rather amorphous role.
The true prize of the picture is its slow-down visual effects. Using
technology first seen in commercials to stop the action and then using a composite image to allow actors to walk freely amongst stopped figures, was a bit troublesome at first, but as the film went on the effects were better. The most notable was the frozen water droplets hanging in air while the actors interacted with them. The effect was admirably done and important only to the magnificence of the experience.
Clockstoppers is most certainly made for teens, but adults will be able to sit back and enjoy the film without feeling talked down to.