directed by Jonathan Frakes
(Nickelodeon, 2002)

Earl Dopler is a scientific genius hard at work on the problem of "hyper-time." Zak Gibbs is a high school student with a talent for finding manual typewriters in second-hand stores and marketing them on eBay as "crash-proof word processors." And Francesca is the recently arrived daughter of the Venezuelan consulate who just happens to go to Zak's school and is in need of a few friends.

Their lives are brought together swiftly one weekend by Dopler's latest tribute to technology, a wristwatch that sends its wearer into hyper-time, which means that it accelerates his or her molecules until they're moving so fast that it looks as if the rest of the world is standing still.

Zak (Jess Bradford) and Francesca (Paula Garces) discover the secret of the watch quite by accident one day, but waste no time in using the device to better the world: by helping Zak's friend Meeker (Gairkayi Mutambirwa) win a DJing contest before hundreds of adoring teenage fans.

In this sense, Clockstoppers is no The Time Machine, H.G. Wells' classic about the lessons to be learned by traveling into the future and returning with some fairly valuable information.

Instead, it's pretty much what you'd expect from a movie produced by the Nickelodeon side of the Paramount mountain: a reasonably competent 94-minute sci-fi adventure caper featuring crisp cinematography, hi-tech gadgets, a well-paced script sprinkled with wit and a bunch of squeaky-clean heroes working toward a predictable outcome.

That's not to say that Clockstoppers is a bad film. It has a lot of things going for it. It's just that surprise isn't one of them.

What does work in Clockstoppers, besides the watch itself, is the chemistry between Bradford and Garces, who make a very appealing couple, even when they're delivering some of Hollywood's oldest cliches. French Stewart is a lot of fun as Dopler as well, especially in the opening sequence, where he dons a phony beard and tries to sneak aboard a flight to Costa Rica to escape the QT thugs who are forcing him to perfect the watch.

There's also some impressive stunt work, especially during Zak's bike ride through QT's R&D lab. It's martial arts on wheels; Jackie Chan beware.

But probably the most fun parts of Clockstoppers are the hyper-time sequences, especially those where Zak and Francesca turn their squeaky-clean town into a veritable wax museum and proceed to take revenge on their favorite foils, including an overly aggressive meter maid and a bully from Zak's school.

Here the film is at its wish fulfillment best; here it's unfazed by trite dialogue, cliched family conflicts and paper-thin caricature thugs. It's kids having fun, which is what Nickelodeon does best.

Sadly, Clockstoppers has to return to the real world of heroes and rescues, and, worse, sub-par performances, most notably by Julia Sweeney and Robin Thomas as Zak's parents. Unlike Zak, they can't make the world stand still; they just slow things down to a crawl.

I have no doubt Clockstoppers will find its fan base; I can hear the watch dials turning already for Clockstoppers II.

I confess I won't be lining up for the world premiere. But I have to admit, I won't be objecting, either.

- Rambles
written by Miles O'Dometer
published 28 December 2002

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