What if you had the power to stop time?
Apparently for some actors there is life after Star Trek. Jonathan Frakes (best known as "Number One" to series fans) has had a fairly lucrative second career as a director. Aside of taking the reigns on Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection, Frakes also sought out the directing gig on the Nickelodeon feature Clockstoppers. The movie is a time-bending action flick that stars Jessie Bradford (Bring It On), French Stuart (TV's 3rd Rock From the Sun), Robin Thomas (Summer School), Julia Sweeney (Saturday Night Live), and Michael Biehn (The Terminator, Aliens). Synchronize your futuristic watches and get ready for Clockstoppers care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
America's battle cry is often "there aren't enough hours in the day!" Yes, here in the US we seem to have everything except enough time on our hands. For Zak Gibbs (Bradford) this doesn't seem to be a problem: he's found a secret watch designed specifically to slow down time (called "hyper-time"), making seconds seem like weeks! This watch was developed by Dr. Earl Dopler (Stewart), a nerdy scientist who worked as a student under Zak's brilliant father (Thomas), a teacher at a local university. Unfortunately, Dopler is being held against his will by the cruel Gates (Biehn) and is under heavy pressure to fix a glitch in the watch: it seems that while the wearer is in hyper-time they still age at a normal rate—this means that when they come out of only one day of hyper-time they could be 15 years older! Gates wants the watch for his own malicious purposes (because whoever owns this watch can own everything!) and will stop at nothing to have it. When Gates finds out that Zak's father was sent one of these watches (which is now in Zak's hands he kidnaps Gibbs Sr. and forces him to perfect hyper-time…or else his son is history! With a new girlfriend by his side (Paula Garces), Zak plans on rescuing his dad and making sure that the watch doesn't fall into the wrong hands!
I'm a complete and utter sucker for movies that toy with time. My favorite film, hands down, is the Back to the Future trilogy (I don't count them as separate films, instead as one continuous movie broken up into three parts). While I was curious about seeing Clockstoppers, I wouldn't say I was excited. The movie is obviously geared towards kids and teens. How else can you count for the unbelievably good-looking cast? Clockstoppers is an enjoyable enough movie, though I have a hard time recommending it to anyone over the age of 15.
Clockstoppers' theory/idea could have made for a really cool story—instead of stopping time (or traveling back and fourth in it), a person is able to slow it down to a minute crawl. The opening scene (featuring a far too goofy disguise on Stewart) shows how this process works: while trying to board a plane, Dopler is whisked from the door of the aircraft to the back of a waiting van in mere seconds. This is because the person who uses the watch can move at his own pace while the rest of the world movies super slow—thus becoming hyper-timed. If only this idea would have been put to better use. The whole hyper-time idea is wasted on Zak attempting to impress Francesca with his father's magical gizmo. We see endless scenes of Zak and his girl walking through passages of stopped time…and not really doing anything. The effects are neat, but where's the excitement?
Of course, when you're dealing with the idea of time you run into all kinds of logistical nightmares. In one scene, Zak rides his bike though a window during hyper-time, smashing the glass around him. Just because he's in hyper-time doesn't mean he's still safe from the glass, right? I'm no rocket scientist, but wouldn't that glass still skewer him like a shish-ka-bob? Questions like this plague Clockstoppers, which means if you want to enjoy the movie you need to turn off your brain.
The performances in the film are all on par with what you'd expect from a Nickelodeon produced film. Some of the adult actors play it straight (Robin Thomas stays in "stern father" mode the whole way through) while others, like French Stewart, play their character so broadly that you assume they accidentally stepped out of an Adam Sandler movie. Michael Biehn, best known to audiences as an '80s sci-fi staple, sneers his way through Clockstoppers as the resident baddie. Sporting a tight suit and one of those little patches of hair under his bottom lip that screams "I'm bad but I'm cool!" Biehn couldn't be more evil if he carried a pitchfork and snorted fire. None of the teen's performances are especially memorable, though I will admit that Jessie Bradford was better than the usual bland Hollywood teen. Paula Graces as Zak's love interest sports one of the phoniest dialects this side of Yakov Smirnoff—she's cute, and that's about it. Garikaya Mutambirwa (say THAT three times fast) plays a hip hoppin' music wannabe and his character seems almost pointless. In one extremely painful sequence, Mutambirwa's character partakes in a DJ contest where his friends jump into hyper-time and spin him around like he was a huge action figure. Not only was this scene laughably bad, but it was also distracting from the rest of the narrative.
Most likely the biggest draw is the special effects, and they are impressive. Sprinklers, bikers, and peeing dogs are all frozen in time, making for truly startling effects. While there were a few moments when I thought the effects bordered on cheesy (especially during the end climax), overall the filmmakers have done a really nice job with this movie. Reiterating, I really can't recommend Clockstoppers to anyone over the age of 15. It's entertaining enough, though within seconds it will vanish from your memory. The effects are nice and the performances apt, but for some reason the awe is missing.
Clockstoppers is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was very pleased with how well this transfer turned out. Aside of a little haloing, this image sports very solid colors and detailed black levels. No edge enhancement was present while flesh tones appeared natural and even. Overall there isn't a lot to complain about here…
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. This 5.1 track is very aggressive, utilizing a vast array of surround sounds during almost the entire length of the film. Dialogue, effects, and music are all natural without any hint of distortion or hiss in the mix. Like the transfer, I don't have anything really negative to say about this portion of the disc. Also included on this disc is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix in English and French, along with English subtitles.
There's not a whole lot to be found here in the way of supplements, though there are a few more extras than are usually included on a Paramount release. Included on this disc are the following features:
The Making of Clockstoppers: a full frame, 10+ minute featurette that includes interviews with the cast and crew, plus a lot of back-patting by everyone involved. There are a few interesting tidbits to be found here (including some rather cool footage on how some of the special effects were achieved), though otherwise this is a clips-heavy documentary that won't add much to one's knowledge of the production.
Two Music Videos: Two music videos are included, one by Smash Mouth for the song "Holiday in my Head" (personally, I wish Smash Mouth would take a holiday…) and one for "It's the Weekend" by Lil' J. Blah.
Promotional Materials: Included are four thirty-second TV spots for the film, as well as a theatrical trailer presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.
I had mixed feelings about Clockstoppers. While it was a genial enough movie, it's really something that only kids and teens will be drawn too. The jokes aren't "adult" enough, and the theory of stopping time is used more as a novelty than a plot propeller. The front of the case quotes film critic Paul Saucido as stating Clockstoppers is "a 'Back to the Future' for a new generation." I think my Saucido is sorely mistaken. Paramount's work on this disc is more than adequate.
Clockstoppers is found guilty of being a movie that could have been oh so much more…
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Scales of Justice
• "Making Of Clockstoppers" Featurette
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