Clockstopper (2002) – Jonathan Frakes

Producer Gale Anne Hurd joins forces with Star Trek alumnus and director Jonathan Frakes to pair up with Nickelodeon Pictures in this family friendly film that is the next stop on the Sci-Fi Chronicles book.

Playing to the tween audience, the film is sadly more suited to television movie territory than striving to be a big blockbuster. The film features Jesse Bradford as Zak Gibbs, a young student who likes his bike, wants to trade up to his first car, and get the girl, and maybe if he’s lucky connect with scientist father, Dr. Gibbs (Robin Thomas) as much as his students do.

When one of his former students, Earl Dopler (French Stewart) reaches out to the doctor, to ask for help in the mire he’s become involved in thanks to the devious machinations of Henry Gates (Michael Biehn) things get out of control for Zak very quickly. Dopler has sent a device, that looks like a common watch, that is the culmination of his work with HyperTime, a sped up level of time that makes the world look like it’s standing still. Dopler only sees scientific applications, Gates wants it weaponized.

Surprise, it ends up in Zak’s hands, and he, the new girl at school, Francesca (Paula Garces) and his buddy Meeker (Garikayi Mutambirwa). When the trio discover what the watch can do, they use it to get even with school bullies, and make Meeker a DJ superstar, and maybe give Zak and Francesca a romantic moment or two.

Unfortunately, they are now on Gates’ radar, and he will be coming after them and nothing will be able to stop him. Not even time.

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Played more for fun than action and tension, Frakes proves that he can handily direct a family film, even if most of his cast look like they would be more comfortable on the small screen. Biehn can chew scenery as a villain with the best of them, but both Bradford, and Stewart, who excel at small screen work, seem a bit out of their league here.

You’d think that a film like this with the pedigree of Biehn, Hurd and Frakes might be inundated with in-jokes, but there don’t seem to be a lot of them, and it feels like a missed opportunity.

But, it’s Nickelodeon, and one kind of knows what to expect with their films in terms of production values, parental figures, sense of humour, pacing and the like. They always play like a step up from television movies.

On the upside, Frakes gets a lot out of his special effects budget, and his years in front of and behind the camera working with visual effects pays off nicely as does his choice in VFX houses.

This one won’t entertain many over the age of the audience it is aimed at, but it’s harmless fun.

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