Tim Allen with two of his young charges in Zoom.



Stars: Tim Allen, Courteney Cox

Director: Peter Hewitt

* (out of five)

Zoom is a movie about kids with special abilities who are gathered together by a secretive military project, in order to be shaped into superheroes and save the world from an imminent threat.

Apparently, this was based on a book, but odds are the material was heavily reshaped by producers desperate to cash in on the success of movies like Spy Kids, Men In Black and the X-Men trilogy, all of which are clumsily referenced in the screenplay by Adam Rifkin and David Berenbaum.

But the biggest touchstone for Zoom turns out to be Galaxy Quest, which also starred Tim Allen as a washed-up hero who must learn to believe in himself all over again.

In Galaxy Quest, Allen was the Shatner-like star of a failed sci-fi TV series; here, he’s Jack Shepherd, an auto mechanic formerly known as Captain Zoom who lost his powers 30 years earlier, only to be roped into the newest iteration of the Zenith Project, which has just recruited a new batch of pint-sized cannon fodder.

Allen is awful. His principal co-stars, the pratfallhappy Courteney Cox and the hideously aged Chevy Chase, just look lost. And while the quartet of younger actors cast as Allen’s charges aren’t exactly bad, they don’t have anything to define them — expand-o-boy Spencer Breslin grouses in a fat suit, invisible kid Michael Cassidy is a generic rebel, Kate Mara squints and frowns as a telekinetic, and superstrong six-year-old Ryan Newman is a simplistic cutester.

Zoom is so thuddingly sloppy, so entirely unentertaining, that it makes you want to stop watching movies entirely. Even the good ones.