What You Need To Know:
CLOCKSTOPPERS is a very entertaining diversion for teenagers. It skews too old for the younger crowd and may be too sweet for older teenagers, but it’s got a great heart and great action adventure. The direction by Jonathan Frakes of STAR TREK fame augments the well-constructed story. Paula Garces is superb as Francesca. Her relationship with Zak is as romantic as it is chaste. Jesse Bradford as Zak is surprisingly appealing in a difficult part. There are also lots of moral messages in this movie, including a strong affirmation of family, and even some clear redemptive ones. Only an ambiguous message about stealing and some scatological humor slightly spoil the fun
(BBB, H, C, L, VV, A, M) Moral worldview with a regrettable lapse into pragmatism with regard to stealing things to solve the plot problem; however, strong family affirmation, strong father/son affirmation and rebuttal of easy sexual relationships; redemptive moments and thanks given to God twice; good triumphs over evil; six vulgarities and scatological moments, including dog put in car to relieve itself, reference to soiling one’s own pants, and other light scatological humor, some visual; action fight scenes including man pulled involuntarily through airport, car rams another car, people zap other people with guns that cause freezing, people caught in violent explosion, two people go over bridge in truck and land in water, and fighting; several kisses but no sex scenes or sexual immorality; girl shows midriff and walks into room in a towel, but nothing exposed; club scene; no smoking; and, kidnapping, thuggery, theft, deception.
CLOCKSTOPPERS is a well-written, fast-paced young teen sci-fi movie from Nickelodeon. The audience at the screening was mostly little children, but this movie is clearly aimed at young adolescents.
Produced by TERMINATOR producer Gale Anne Hurd and directed ably by STAR TREK director and star Jonathan Frakes, CLOCKSTOPPERS has a MATRIX feel though aimed at a younger audience and full of moral messages. Gale told this writer that she wanted to make a movie to which she could take her young daughter.
The movie opens with a very frenetic, slick clockstopping introduction reminiscent of the golden age of movie opening credits. Within a few short moments, a bearded man tries desperately to get on a plane to Costa Rica. He pushes his way through the airport, obviously pre 9/11, only to be strangely sucked back through the airport into an ominous black van, where Dr. Dopler’s phony beard is removed.
Cut to young Zak Gibbs racing through town on his bike to tell his father, Prof. Gibbs, about a used Mustang he wants to buy. Regrettably, when Zak arrives in his father’s classroom, his father is too busy to pay any attention to him. Zak decides to sell whatever he can on the Internet so he can pay for the car. In the process, he finds a cheap-looking watch sent to his father from Dr. Dopler. When he puts the watch on and presses the timeset button, it appears that everything stops around him. Actually, his metabolism has speeded up.
Cutting back to Dr. Dopler, the mean Mr. Gates, played wonderfully by Michael Biehn, is forcing Dr. Dopler, once a young student of Prof. Gibbs, to develop a device to speed up metabolisms. The downside is that people age prematurely. So Dopler has sent the watch to his former professor to try to solve the aging problem. Mr. Gates wants Dopler to finish the project quickly before the NSA shuts them down for fear that this device is way too powerful.
Meanwhile, Zak has been smitten by with a beautiful diplomat’s daughter from Venezuela. Francesca is savvy and refuses to be manipulated by young men with raging hormones. When Zak tries to date her, she traps Zak into coming over to her house to clean up the yard. When he pushes the watch, they are both sent off into hyper time. Soon, they decide to go into town and pull a series of very lightweight pranks.
When Zak gets back to his home, it’s being ransacked by agents from Gates. Zak escapes the bad guys and takes Francesca to find his father at a science convention. At the convention, Zak discovers that his father has been kidnapped, so Zak and Francesca team up with the escaped Dopler to rescue Prof. Gibbs.
CLOCKSTOPPERS moves in hyper time. Its plot structure is well constructed, with all of the sub-themes and plots building momentum. It is a good example of script-craftsmanship, and the direction by Jonathan Frakes augments the story well.
At the heart of the movie, of course, is the old-fashioned message that fathers need to spend more time with their children and children need to appreciate their parents. Paula Garces is superb as Francesca, a girl who refuses to be manipulated, stands her ground while she radiates feminine virtues. Her relationship with Zak is as romantic as it is chaste. Jesse Bradford is surprisingly winsome beyond his physical limitations in a difficult part.
There are lots of moral messages in this movie, and it ends with the mother’s repeated “Thank God!” There are even clear redemptive messages that you need to lay down your life for others.
Regrettably, Zak and Francesca pull a couple of scatological pranks and consistently take things that do not belong to them to try to solve the problems in the plot. Although other immoral actions are rebuked, stealing is never rebuked. Gates clearly represents the archetype of that wealthy somebody with the same name in real life which indicates elements of the politics of envy. An associate who came to the screening was concerned about his children watching this cavalier attitude toward theft. However, all the stealing is in the service of rescuing the father and saving the day. This is a pragmatic use of illicit activity to serve a greater good.
For a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve and tries so hard to be acceptable to younger people, one can understand the motivation. After all, in JIMMY NEUTRON, which has a similar message, the kids borrow from the carnival the ride so that they can rescue the parents. Perhaps there is another way to solve the plot problems, but it probably would have slowed down the momentum. After all, explaining to people why you have to take their expensive scientific equipment might take quite a while.
Ultimately, CLOCKSTOPPERS is a very entertaining diversion for teenagers. It skews too old for the younger crowd and may be too sweet for older teens, but it’s got a great heart and great action adventure. It also has the same production excellence as its science fiction predecessors.