- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.


Rating: PG for brief rude humor, language and mild action.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 8 and older

** (out of five stars)

Synopsis: Dull comic-book fodder for children.

Running time: 83 minutes

Common Sense note: Parents need to know there’s a ton of disrespectful behavior from both the adults and children in this movie. Before warming up to the children, Jack (Tim Allen) is downright mean, calling them names and treating them badly. There’s also lots of crude behavior. The parents in this movie are conspicuously missing, and the superheroes form their own “family.”

Families can talk about the definition of “family.” Does it always refer to people who are biologically related, or can it mean people who are bonded in another way? Also, was it right for the children to take out their anger with their superpowers? What’s a better way to handle anger? Could Jack have had a better attitude about training the children?

Common Sense review: Thirty years ago, Jack Shepard (Tim Allen) was known as Captain Zoom for his incredible speed. At a secret facility known as Area 52, Jack led a group of superheroes known as Team Zenith, created by Gen. Larraby (Rip Torn) and scientist Dr. Grant (Chevy Chase). By subjecting the group to gamma-13 radiation, the government enhanced the children’s natural gifts, but also turned one, Concussion (Kevin Zegers), into a villain.

Concussion (who is Jack’s older brother), murdered most of the team before being sucked into a vortex and presumed dead. Jack was tossed out of the program and went on to live a life of bitter regret.

Now, it appears that Concussion is still alive. So Larraby reactivates the Zenith program and recruits has-been Jack to train a new team of superhero children: 16-year-old Summer Jones (Kate Mara), 17-year-old Dylan West (Michael Cassidy), chubby 12-year-old Tucker Williams (Spencer Breslin) and bratty 6-year-old Cindy Collins (Ryan Newman). Jack wants nothing to do with it, but an ultimatum of prison (and a $500,000 paycheck) provides all the motivation he needs. It doesn’t hurt that he gets to work with the klutzy and beautiful psychologist Marsha Holloway (Courteney Cox).

The young superheroes are somewhat appealing, but this movie falls flat on just about every other account. The montage scenes get old fast, and the plot is predictable and covers the usual themes of teen angst, fitting in and finding your own gifts. Mr. Chase still isn’t funny, Mr. Torn is like a maniacal cartoon character, and Mr. Allen needs to find a niche other than family movies. Based on Jason Lethcoe’s comic book for young adults, this movie is harmless fun for children, but there’s not a whole lot of new material here.

Sexual content: Flirting between Jack and Marsha and Dylan and Summer. During training, Dylan accidentally lands on top of Summer (both horizontal on the floor), and they kiss briefly at the end of the movie.

Language alert: A few mild expletives and some name-calling.

Violence alert: Comic-book style violence, including kicking, punching, throwing, shattering glass. While being recruited, Jack is shot with a dart gun that makes him unconscious. Concussion gets knocked around, hit with a metal pole and spun into a whirlwind.

Commercialism alert: M&Ms; and Wendy’s factor prominently in the story line. A robot is named Mr. Pibb.

Social-behavior alert: Jack tells Larraby to chill out and have a drink.

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