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Movie Review

Stop. Imagine for a moment that you can make the world grind to a halt all around you. Dr. Earl Dopler can do more than imagine. He has invented a device that can throw anyone who touches it into Hypertime, a state of movement so fast that everything else seems to be standing still. A spraying sprinkler transforms into a shimmering curtain of suspended droplets. Buzzing bee wings slow to a gentle sweep. And hearts pound so slowly a surgeon could operate in between beats. There’s just one problem: Hypertime causes accelerated aging. A week in Hypertime strips twenty years from a person’s life; any longer kills. And that’s not acceptable for the covert black-ops director Henry Gates.

The National Security Agency (NSA) is going to confiscate Gates’ lab in three days, along with all his research, so he kidnaps Dopler, locks him in a high-tech cell hard-wired for Hypertime and presents the doctor with an ultimatum: fix the glitch before the NSA arrives or die trying. Unable to solve the dilemma, Dopler contacts his old college professor, Dr. Gibbs, for help and the device (disguised as an ordinary watch) inadvertently ends up on the wrist of Gibbs’ son, Zak. One day Zak is selling junk on Ebay and hanging out with his friend (and aspiring DJ) Meeker. The next he’s dodging secret agents.

positive elements: The Gibbs model a species that’s long been endangered in Hollywood: a healthy, loving family. Far from a flimsy cardboard mock-up painted in sickeningly bright pastels, mother, father and siblings are actually a real family. They wrangle over their differences, but never stray far from the strong bond of love that unites them. Though Dr. Gibbs spends too much time at work, his family treats him with patience and good humor and he eventually apologizes. When father and son bitterly argue over the purchase of a classic car and the doctor’s absenteeism due to an out-of-state conference, Dad tries to resolve the situation before leaving town. "I don’t want to leave with something like this between Zak and me," he tells his wife. Mrs. Gibbs cuts Zak off mid-sentence when the boy complains about his dad, saying, "When your father’s old and gray, you’re going to regret not having a better relationship with him."

[Spoiler Warning] After Gates and his cronies abduct Dr. Gibbs to finish Dopler’s work, Zak risks his life by storming the complex and putting himself in double Hypertime—a condition that could easily kill him—to save his father. In the end they come to grips with the differences between their respective rationalistic and impulsive outlooks on life and their similarities which regularly drive them to distraction. Zak chastises Dopler (who claims that Dr. Gibbs was a father to him) for his cowardice and refusal to help save him. Dopler eventually relents and comes to Gibbs' aid in a moment of crisis.

Despite his foul language, a comment from Gates indicates how much Dr. Gibbs cares for his son. Gates tells Zak, "He must be very fond of you. I couldn’t get him to do a d--n thing until I threatened to kill you." Zak’s crush/girlfriend, Francesca, respects her family as well, even though her father’s job kept her moving for most of her life. She honors her father’s desire to cultivate self-discipline in her by expecting her to care for her siblings and do chores; she refuses to skip out on her responsibilities to spend time with Zak.

Aside from positive family portrayals, Clockstoppers also holds loyalty in high esteem. Francesca and Zak use Hypertime to save Meeker from public humiliation at the hands of two bullies during a local DJ contest. Zak stands up to the same thugs as they harass Francesca (although his actions are prompted by the desire for a date as much as by chivalry). Though Francesca first thinks Zak is a bit loutish, she relents and gives him her address because "we all deserve a second chance." She also refuses to leave him as he prepares to save his dad from Gates.

sexual content: Director Frakes plays Francesca’s adolescent sex appeal to the hilt. Zak and Meeker first see her stretching in skin tight Spandex and her other outfits are scarcely more modest. When the police are on his tail, Zak hides in her room and accidentally surprises her as she begins to take her shirt off (audiences see the bottom of her bra). At one point when Dopler and Zak are discussing how to thwart Gates, she steps out of the bathroom, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she’s only wearing a towel (Dopler, however, is obviously not). But despite her lack of modesty, her romantic relationship with Josh proves remarkably chaste, consisting of a couple kisses and hugs. Other sexual content includes Meeker stroking pictures of Victoria’s Secret models and wanting to use Hypertime to "dress Coach Welch up like Britney Spears" and spy on a naked slumber party.

violent content: Gates’ agents and Zak and company blast various people with liquid nitrogen to bring them out of Hypertime (the intense cold slows them down). Fights, while not a scarce commodity, are bloodlessly choreographed. An intense chase scene, half in Hypertime, half in real time, ends with Zak barreling a van through a guardrail and into a river. Dopler dumps Zak and Francesca into a garbage truck. Gates’ laboratory gets blown to kingdom come in a fiery explosion.

crude or profane language: A couple of mild profanities crop up, along with half a dozen crudities like "crap," "jerkwad" and "blows."

drug and alcohol content: When Meeker enters the DJ contest, a bully asks him if he’s "tripping off the bad lunch meat."

other negative elements: After first discovering Hypertime, Zak and Francesca take it upon themselves to pay back a thief, a vandal and an unjust meter maid with vigilante prankster zeal. Later, they steal electronic equipment from a trade show in order to repair a broken Hypertime device. Though they’re in dire straits, their attitude seems to be "the ends justify the means." The music of troublesome bands such as Blink-182 and Uncle Kracker makes brief appearances.

conclusion: When audiences lavished The Princess Diaries, Shrek and Monster’s Inc. with their box office dollars, studio execs sat up and took notice. Family films, it seemed, weren’t destined to be financial belly flops. Clockstoppers splashes around in the pool at times, and its sexual suggestiveness and mild violence makes the execution a little rough, but it scores Olympic-level points with its favorable take on friendship and family.

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Jesse Bradford as Zak Gibbs; Paula Garcés as Francesca DeLaCruz; Garikayi Mutambirwa as Meeker; French Stewart as Dr. Earl Dopler; Michael Biehn as Henry Gates; Robin Thomas as Dr. Gibbs; Julia Sweeney as Mr. Gibbs


Jonathan Frakes ( )


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Loren Eaton

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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