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  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
from Film Forum, 04/04/02

Even though Smoochy made critics dig deep in their thesauruses for words that mean "unpleasant," they saved a few harsh words for the sci-fi teen adventure flick Clockstoppers as well.

Here's the premise: A watch has been created that can stop or slow time, and the teens that have it are trying to keep it from the clutches of pursuing bad guys. Judging from reports about the acting, the writing, and the lack of ideas, it sounds like the special effects team may have been the only ones working on the film who had anything interesting to do.

Mainstream critics quickly dismissed it as derivative and dumb. Robert K. Elder (Chicago Tribune) complains, "Sci-fi hijinks and a government conspiracy serve merely as window dressing for a ham-fisted message about the importance of good parenting and owning a car in high school."

Kirk Honeycutt (Hollywood Reporter) calls it "a lackluster children's action film … The script, credited seemingly to half the members of the Writers Guild, makes little attempt to establish the plausibility of the science fiction elements. OK, so the wearer of this watch winds up in hypertime, but how do cars and anyone nearby manage to enter this Coney Island of time and space?"

Roger Ebert offers a more positive summary: "Unlike Spy Kids or Big Fat Liar, it offers few consolations for parents and older brothers and sisters. It is what it is, efficiently and skillfully, and I salute it for hitting a double or maybe a triple."

Some religious press critics had similar complaints, but for others it passed muster.

The USCCB critic says, "Clockstoppers may appeal to children the way Spy Kids did because it portrays kids taking charge and saving adults. However, unlike Spy Kids, a far superior movie, there are no lessons to be learned, except maybe don't fool with your father's gadgets."

None of this troubles Holly McClure (Crosswalk): "This clever family-friendly movie will appeal to adults as well as kids and teens. The unique special effects, the fun time-stands-still scenes and teen heroes who save the day make this a positive story about family relationships."

Michael Elliott says, "Inconsistencies and unexplained gaps in its logic might frustrate the more demanding moviegoer. For the casual viewer, Clockstoppers is a bit of innocuous fun despite its many flaws."

But Ted Baehr (Movieguide) labels it great: "Clockstoppers is a very entertaining diversion for teenagers. It skews too old for the younger crowd and may be too sweet for older teens, but it's got a great heart and great action adventure." Unlike the majority who found its special effects gimmicky and unoriginal, Baehr claims the film "has the same production excellence as its science fiction predecessors."

John Evans (Preview) argues that the moderate action and some "suggestive comments" make the film "objectionable viewing for pre-teens and very questionable for teenagers." He also has a notion that young viewers who experience this "frantic action with loud, startling music" may become hyperactive.