Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG for intensity, mild violence
Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Step into the shoes of a hormonally-challenged twelve-year old and this is the goods. Action, chaste romance, hi-tech wizardry, and the bare semblance of a plot. Not to mention lovable heartthrob Jesse Bradford (“Bring It On”) in the lead, trick-biking his way into adolescent (and aging film critic) hearts everywhere.
Bradford is energetic high-schooler Zak Gibbs, whose current focus is to corral his dad long enough to co-sign the loan papers on a souped-up Mustang convertible. Dad’s a tad more preoccupied with his science experiments than with his kids, establishing the chronic nuclear-family plague of Teen Tension. Through a series of random coincidences, Zak discovers an odd wristwatch in a neglected box of his dad’s things while the old man is offsite taking care of business.
A casual date with hot crush Francesca (Paula Garces) yields sparks and a discovery – this is no ordinary watch. The mysterious timepiece freezes the wearer into “hyper-time”, by accelerating the user’s molecular structure and speeding him or her up, thus seemingly slowing the surrounding activity to a standstill.
Let’s party! Zak and Francesca learn to manipulate their new toy for mischief, creating novel pranks involving animals, cops, and graffiti artists. Fun turns to fear when the pair find themselves and their groovy gizmo the target of a sinister government plot to utilize the futuristic innovation for ill-gotten gains.
Dangling plot lines and inconsistencies are nearly forgiven in a whirl of compound sci-fi vocabulary, liquid nitrogen guns, and killer bike stunts. Bradford charms his way through the inanities, making puppy-dog eyes at his honey while self-effacingly rescuing dad and the rest of the unwitting planet from ultimate catastrophe. The script is a paint-by-numbers ode to the pre-pubescent set, but the special effects are uncannily attention-getting. Kudos to Nickelodeon Movies for a harmless amusement tailored to the oft-neglected 13-and-under set.