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oomZoom - Academy for Superheroes on DVD

Zoom is a pleasant surprise. We went in expecting nothing but a piece of fluff that might have interesting special effects and yet found ourselves laughing out loud numerous times as the rather silly but unpretentious movie unfolded.

Tim Allen is, or used to be, Captain Zoom, a superhero who lost his powers years ago. But now there's a super threat on its way and the powers that be (led by Rip Torn and Chevy Chase) drag Jack (a.k.a. Zoom) back from his quiet life to help recruit and train a new generation of super heroes to help fight this new threat (which is actually an old threat returning).

So he takes charge, reluctantly, of a new super crew that includes a little girl with super strength (Ryan Newman), a dude who can make himself disappear (Michael Cassidy), a telekinetic girl (Kate Mara, 24), and a fat kid who can inflate parts of his body to enormous size (Spencer Breslin) – talk about an inflated ego! Aided by the smart, attractive, but clumsy Marsha Holloway (Courtenay Cox), Zoom must mold these disparate elements into a cohesive team quickly, lest life as we know it suffer a rather large setback.

It's all rather predictable, but it's fun and it never takes itself seriously – and that's its secret charm. Where this movie could have just been a dumb rehash, it takes elements from other stories of this type and pays them gentle homage (for example, the flying saucer the government appropriated from Roswell bears a striking resemblance in its mien to those Ray Harryhausen saucers of old).

Think comic book brought to the screen – and in fact the movie is based on the "graphic novel" Zoom's Academy for the Super Gifted" by Jason Lethcoe.

Remember when graphic novels were called "comic books?" Hey, nothing wrong with that! Comic books told (and probably still tell, but we haven't read one for years) grand morality tales of action, adventure and derring do – the stuff of which the best adventure stories are made.

The weirdest thing about Zoom is seeing Chevy Chase, once thought of as a great comic actor, playing a much-abused straight man here. The years haven't been kind to Chase, or so it would appear from his appearance here.

Perhaps most legitimate as a guilty pleasure, Zoom isn't going to go down in history in the same league as Superman/Returns, Batman/Begins, Spiderman, X-Men and the like, but it's a light and entertaining hour and a half in the home theater.

The DVD quality, at least so far as the movie's presentation is concerned, is very good. It's anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is top notch. Audio, which is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, is also first rate, with good use of the low frequency effects channel.

Extras include a decent "making of" documentary "Bringing Superheroes to Life" and a pretty lame Guide for Kids that offers advice for the average Super Kid.

Zoom: Academy for Superheroes, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
88 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Tim Allen, Courtenay Cox, Chevy Chase, Spencer Breslin and Rip Torn
Produced by Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Todd Garner,
Written by Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum, directed by Peter Hewitt

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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