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Zoom: Academy for Superheroes

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Zoom: Academy for Superheroes
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Review of ‘Zoom: Academy for Superheroes’ – the Disney family comedy starring Tim Allen as the bitter, angry former superhero who’s called out of retirement to help train 4 new superheroes-in-training, with the aid of Courtney Cox-Arquette; before the menace that destroyed his former team returns for revenge

Zoom: Academy for Superheroes (2006) starring Tim Allen, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Chevy Chase, Rip Torn

Zoom: Academy for Superheroes is best described as a second-tier Tim Allen movie.  In Zoom: Academy for Superheroes Tim Allen plays the role of Jack Shepard, a retired superhero formerly known as Captain Zoom.  30 years previously, Tim Allen/Jack/Zoom led a team of government-sanctioned superheroes known as Zenith Project. Until the government decided to increase the superheroes’ powers by exposing them to massive doses of gamma radiation.  This went badly, as Zoom’s brother, Conner (superhero name: Concussion) was driven mad by the treatment. And he killed the other members of the team. This led to Zoom losing his super-speed, and Concussion seemingly being killed as well.  Tim Allen/Jack/Zoom has become bitter and cynical due to his experiences.

In the present day, the military commander (played by Rip Torn) and his lead scientist Dr. Grant (played by Chevy Chase) know the truth—Zoom’s brother wasn’t killed, but rather exiled to a distant dimension; and he’s working his way back to Earth.  In response, they plan on forming a new Zenith Project, with four new misfit super-powered children. And they forcefully recruit Zoom to train them.  Assisting Tim Allen/Zoom/Jack is Marsha Holloway (played by Courtney Cox-Arquette). Her job is to help the children become first a team, and then a family.  To complicate the issue, Marsha has an enormous crush on Zoom, and is his biggest fan. As well as being comically clumsy.

Heart of the movie

Tim Allen/Zoom/Jack is at first only going through the motions. But he slowly begins to thaw, as he deals with the four children

DF-00571_r – (l to r) Ryan Newman, Tim Allen, Michael Cassidy, Spencer Breslin, and Kate Mara star in Revolution StudiosÕ comedy Zoom, a Columbia Pictures release.
  • Dylan, a 17-year-old boy who can turn invisible
  • Summer, a 16-year-old girl with telekinetic powers and empathy.
  • Tucker, a pudgy 12-year-old boy with the power to enlarge any part of his body.
  • Cindy, a 6-year-old girl with super strength. 

For me, one of the highlights of the movie is when Cindy has a nightmare, and comes to Zoom’s room in the middle of the night. “Mr. Zoom, can I sleep in here?”—dressed in a bunny costume.  It’s a very sweet moment, the sort of Home Improvement moment that Tim Allen does well.  Likewise, he connects with Dylan in the project’s brig, and helps him to realize his secondary ability, to see mentally other places.  Using this, he discovers that Zoom’s brother is returning. And that the government is planning on subjecting the kids to the same Gamma-13 treatment that ruined Zoom’s life.

Spencer Breslin (Tucker), Kate Mara (Summer), Michael Cassidy (Dylan), Courteney Cox (Marsha), Ryan Newman (Cindy) and Tim Allen (Zoom) star in Zoom

This leads up to the conclusion, where Zoom and Marsha help the kids to escape and confront Zoom’s brother.  Will they escape the Gamma-13?  Can the new kids be able to stop Concussion, who destroyed the original Zenith Project?  Will Zoom regain his super-speed ability?  Why are we even asking this questions?  It’s a Disney film, after all.  It’s a cute film, and I personally prefer it to Sky High … But not by much, and I’m frankly not a fan of that movie. 

Final thoughts

Pros include Tim Allen playing the title role of Zoom, managing to entice the audience into liking the cynical former hero, and the four actors playing the new heroes – Cindy, especially.  What was truly a negative was Chevy Chase, striving to regain his comedic timing, and for the most part failing.  There’s an extended scene where the children find him in an “environmental simulation room” where they give him a little payback for the grief that he’s caused them during the training. It’s legitimately funny—but it’s also legitimately unnecessary; had it been edited out of the movie, it wouldn’t have made any difference to the telling of the story.

Editorial review of Zoom: Academy for Superheroes, courtesy of

The bright colors and simple stories of classic superhero comics are the template for Zoom–none of that moody, bleak X-Men nonsense here. Retired superhero Captain Zoom (Tim Allen, The Shaggy Dog) gets pulled out of mothballs when the government decides to assemble a new team of super-powered kids. The motley quartet includes a herculean little girl (Ryan Newman), an invisible slacker (Michael Cassidy, The O.C. ), a telekinetic hot chick (Kate Mara, 24), and a chunky lad whose body inflates to enormous size (Spencer Breslin, The Cat in the Hat, The Kid). But Zoom has lost his super-speed and gained a cynical chip on his shoulder; will he regain his faith in heroes in time to battle an impending menace?

There’s nothing original about Zoom, but the engaging cast–which also includes Courteney Cox (Friends), Kevin Zegers (Transamerica), and Rip Torn (Men in Black, Forty Shades of Blue)–could have given some pep to a competent formulaic script. Unfortunately, they were saddled with this one. But the saddest aspect of Zoom is the sight of Chevy Chase (Foul Play, Fletch) trying to muster a scrap of his lost talent. —Bret Fetzer

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