Captain Zoom was once the leader of the Zenith Team, a group of superheroes dedicated to fighting evil. Well, make that the former Captain Zoom. These days he just goes by Jack, now that he's the sole survivor of the team after one Zenith member turned to the dark side—yes, that's the term they use—and destroyed Zenith. Jack's life is decidedly slower now, and he wants nothing to do with the superhero business.
It turns out that that renegade Zenith member, called Concussion because of his ability to create crushing shock waves, is now coming back to exact his final revenge on the secret government agency that created him by dosing him with deadly gamma-13 radiation. Agency heads, Gen. Larraby and Dr. Grant, must quickly recruit and train a new Zenith Team if they are to have any hope of defeating Concussion. And who better to train a new Zenith Team than its former leader?
Thus a very reluctant—and cynical—Jack must take four young (as young as 6) misfits and whip them into shape in the few days they have before Concussion's return. Cindy has amazing superstrength; Tucker can distort and distend his body into fantastic shapes and sizes; Summer has powers of both telepathy and telekinesis—the ability to move objects with her mind; and Dylan can become invisible as well as project his vision to distant places—called "mind sight." Despite their powers, though, they lack confidence, and the team is less than cohesive. And Jack harbors a secret the new team members don't know at first: Concussion is really his brother, and therefore he has mixed feelings about fighting him in the first place.
The power of teamwork gets big play in Zoom. It's clear that despite having great individual powers, the members of the new Zenith Team cannot hope to defeat Concussion as individuals. Learning to respect an individual's talents, and letting those talents develop naturally, is also an important message. The original Zenith Team was done in because Gen. Larraby grew impatient and tried to enhance and speed up their development as superheroes by using the gamma-13 radiation—with bad results.
It is declared over and over again that differences should be deemed special, not disabling. Marsha never gives in to Jack's cynicism, and eventually her earnestness and enthusiasm bring him around, and that causes him to remember his former motto: "In the pursuit of justice, there is no speed limit."
The new Zenith Team does not set out to destroy Concussion but to save him from himself, to purge him of whatever evil impulse caused him to turn against his colleagues years earlier.
Although their powers are attributed to inborn abilities, not the supernatural, Summer's and Dylan's superpowers echo extra-sensory powers that in the real world would be immediately categorized as mystical or preternatural.
Marsha wears a very low-cut dress, and Jack snidely objectifies her by asking, "Why is the green dress talking?" Later he suggestively asks her if she still has it. Girls wear bikinis at poolside. Summer and Dylan kiss, and once during training they fall, with Dylan landing (and lingering) atop her.
Related to the General's desire to dose the kids with radiation, Jack smirks about using "lead underwear to protect your privates" and "sterilizing a whole trailer park." When Larraby throws an emotional tantrum, Jack says, "Gee, for a straight guy you sure are dramatic." Later, he makes a crack about wanting to see Larraby and Grant wear dresses. When Dylan practices his mind sight, Jack tells him, "Stay out of the ladies' room."
Comic-book-style violence throughout. An opening sequence, actually drawn in comic panels, shows the original Zenith Team fighting Concussion, with characters being hurled about and crashing into objects. (One wields a crossbow.)
In the final showdown, Concussion uses his power to bowl over lines of soldiers and to destroy military equipment. He also repeatedly sends Jack flying several feet through the air. Dylan (now dubbed Houdini) punches Concussion in the face, Summer (Wonder) hurls rocks at him and Tucker (Mega Boy) sends him flying by suddenly expanding his belly. Cindy (Princess) rips a giant pole from the ground and hits the flying Concussion through the air as if hitting a baseball.
When an older boy tries to steal her Halloween candy, Cindy throws him high into a tree. Other times—in anger—she hurls heavy objects around a room or at people, and she pushes Dr. Grant, causing him to crash into a far-away wall. She helps break Jack out of a jail cell by kicking in the door (which lands on Jack).
Summer uses her telekinetic powers to cause cafeteria-line food to explode all over some cheerleaders. She also uses that power to hurl a drinking glass against a wall, but it's more to show off than in anger. Running at superspeed, Jack trips and tumbles for a great distance. The team members, with Marsha's help, disable guards by blowing them over and knocking them out.
The Zenith Team trains in a large room that fires paintballs at them from all directions, and in the early rounds members are pelted often. Marsha fakes getting hit by a car to get Jack's attention. Jack is shot with a dart gun.
In what may well be the film's most unnecessarily mean moment, the children deliberately inflict pain and humiliation on Dr. Grant by locking him in an environmental simulator. They push buttons to strike him with lightning, hit him with falling rocks, dump rain and snow on him, assail him with a tornado and douse him with stink from a mechanical skunk.
Other Negative Elements
Geek jokes fly, especially in the first half of the film. During superhero tryouts, one boy introduces himself as Gas Giant and demonstrates with loud flatulence. Another boy's superpower is the ability to blow gigantic snot bubbles, and one explodes, covering Dr. Grant in green slime. Another boy eats a sheet of paper and then shoots paper wads from his mouth like a machine gun. Jack belches loudly several times and tries to get rid of one of the kids by saying, "I'm rather gassy." When it's discovered that Marsha has a hidden superpower to be able to exhale with great power, Tucker says, "She blows." Misunderstanding, Jack responds, "Well, yeah."
In a series of outtakes shown with the closing credits, Chevy Chase sings, "We all like to poo in our pants." Several cast members join in the impromptu ditty.
Zoom, based loosely on the book Amazing Adventures From Zoom's Academy by Jason Lethcoe, is a generally mild-mannered mash-up of many movies, including The Incredibles, Mystery Men, Spider-Man, The Hulk, all three X-Men movies, Sky High and Agent Cody Banks. It features positive messages about duty, loyalty, teamwork, family and appreciating everyone's abilities, even those society would disdain.
It also features an adorable 6-year-old girl who has learned to make her way through life by getting mad and throwing things. Not completely unheard of, of course, except for the fact that Cindy throws desks and automobiles, not dolls and pillows. Also troubling for families who favor fun movies with positive messages is the aforementioned scene in which Cindy and Co. put the prods to the General. (Zoom doesn't even bother to build a decent case against him before they do it, either. The kids just seem to enjoy watching him suffer and squirm.)
So, as the younger children in the theater I attended laughed at the slapstick and general silliness, I watched my watch and tallied up the lessons learned: Different equals special equals good. Save your sibling from evil, but don't count on your parents to help you out while you're doing it. The surest way to take the I out of team is to rally the troops against (misguided) authority figures. If your dentist mutters anything about gamma-13 radiation—leave. And finally, you can summon the best that is inside you only when you're focused on helping someone else.