While not exactly a Millennial Hallmarker rom-com in the same vein as the others on this blog, Clockstoppers will always have a special place in my heart. Therefore, I couldn’t let its 15th anniversary go by without a little celebration, a love letter. Well, think of this less as a love letter and more as a loving rewatch of the awesomely-soundtracked 2002 flick about a teenager, Zak (Jesse Bradford), coming into possession of a time-stopping-esque watch.
The movie starts off by letting you know it’s a Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures film, so you already know it’s going to be good. It proceeds like any other teen movie, with the lead character going about his day. Riding his bike around, checking out cars he wants to buy…and then meeting a girl.
Zak is instantly smitten with Francesca (Paula Garces), the foreign exchange student from Venezuela, when he spots her at his best friend Meeker’s (Garikayi Mutambirwa) job at a sports/outdoors store, but things don’t go so smoothly for him right off the bat.
He fumbles up his words, says the wrong things, and Francesca is having none of it.
“All I really want is to be giving my love to…the very first bozo who wants to know the time!” she mocks him from up high on the rock wall, while he hovers down below. Ouch!
Back home he goes, to sit in his room and think about how he could recover from his first chat with her, and to give all of us Bring It On superfans a little flutter in our heats by playing the guitar.
Total Cliff Pantone feels, anyone?
Okay, okay. Let’s move on from Bring it On because I could write about that movie all day. Time to continue with one of my favorite childhood, time-stopping movies to watch with my family.
Hopefully you weren’t feeling too bad for Zak and his flirting mishap because he apologizes to Francesca at school the next day, after she wards off a couple of other guys, like the strong, independent woman she is, and finally gets his words right. And even gets a date out of it. Well, kind of.
Little did he know, she tricked him into helping her with some household chores, but at least it gave them time to talk and get to know each other. All very normal and nice.
That is until Zak checks the time on his watch and inadvertently stops time. You know, the usual. It causes him to bring a live, gross animal into Francesca’s kitchen, but it also gives us an exceptionally pretty scene.
He pauses time again, this time while touching Francesca, causing her to be able to see things as he does. Nature is slowed down. Birds, bees, water. It’s beautiful and romantic. Which is one of the reasons why this movie makes it onto the list of those that deserves a love letter.
From Francesca’s backyard to the rest of town, a hyper-time adventure awaits for the two of them. Perfectly set to the soundtrack of Blink 182’s “First Date,” she and Zak have just that as they run around the city, pulling pranks and having fun using the newfound abilities of his technologically-advanced watch.
When they’re done messing with parking cops and school enemies, they head to Meeker’s gig DJing at a club, which happens to be going terribly. Luckily, Francesca takes pity on him, going up on stage with Zak in hypertime and using Meeker as a puppet to make him breakdance like a master and scratch records like the pro he isn’t.
Of course, they let him in on the little secret after his show and now they’re the three musketeers with the coolest power they could’ve asked for. This doesn’t last long, though, as Zak drops Meeker off at his house before bring Francesca home from their first date.
Francesca: “What, do you think that magical watch is going to get you a kiss?”
Zak: “No, I just wanted to spend more time with -”
Francesca: “Shh, you don’t need magic.”
Successful first date.
That is, until he gets back to his house to find time frozen…except for the burglars moving around in his basement. Trouble isn’t frozen, it’s simply waiting for him. He manages to escape the freeze gun shot at him by the evildoers and finds himself escaping in a hot-wired van. If he thought he was on an adventure before, then he’s about to learn the real meaning of the word with the car chase that ensues.
The car chase ends with him and the van in a body of water with the creator of the watch screaming at him, “Whatever you do, don’t get it wet.”
And then Zak’s limp body starts sliding toward the water, with his hand and the watch eventually slipping into it. Uh oh.
He wakes up in the hospital, with police questioning him, his family worried (well, not his sister), and the evil people still after him. He ends up drying out his watch in the bathroom and is able to slow time again, briefly.
He calls his friend Meeker at work, as Simple Plan’s “Worst Day Ever” perfectly plays in the background, and asks to borrow his mom’s car. He can’t. From there, Zak heads to Francesca’s place. Before asking for her help, I like that he acknowledges that this is all a lot after they’ve been on only one date. Many movies skip over the fact that after knowing each other for only about a day they’re already in so deep, but not this one. I appreciate that.
She ends up letting him borrow a car, jumping inside at the last minute.
Zak: “What are you doing?”
Francesca: “You raked my leaves, I can’t let you go alone.”
For those of you that weren’t paying attention to the beginning part of this post, he actually helped her rake the leaves at her house, that wasn’t some dirty euphemism.
And just like that, the adventure continues for the duo. Just a bit more dangerous this time. Including getting kidnapped…with a garbage truck instead of a white van. That’s a new (and gross) one.
How do they get away from their kidnapper? While Zak is just ready to do whatever he asks and hand over the now-broken watch, Francesca isn’t going to let anyone push her around. She kicks him using her ballet skills and knocks him out. Again, like the strong, independent woman that she is.
The duo and take their new hostage/old kidnapper to go shopping at a tech convention to get the items they need to fix the watch because they’re about to head straight for the evil people’s den to save Zak’s father, who’s been taken.
But first, in true Nickelodeon fashion, they head to Meeker’s place of work to get outfitted with paintball guns for their mission. Splat!
Except they take the paint out and put in frozen nitrogen in order to slow down the hyper-time guards that will be at the location.
Unfortunately, none of it is good enough as they still get caught and get taken deeper into the lair. Zak sees his dad locked away in a glass room, unable to help him. Even worse, he and Francesca are thrown in there with him. At least this gives Zak and his dad a chance to reconnect and get on better terms with one another.
But then, Zak reveals that he still has on his new watch and uses it, even though he is already in hyper-time, and his molecules accelerate even more. And he looks like this:
He escapes, then blows up the glass prison and helps his dad and Francesca get out, as well. Well done, hero.
But not so fast (see what I did there). The bad guy isn’t going down that easy, so he pulls out his freeze gun and blasts Francesca. Before he’s able to blast the rest of the good guy crew, the old hostage/kidnapper gets there in time to save them by using his own rigged-up paintball gun on the bad guy. Well done, other hero.
The bad guys are taken away. The technology is taken away. And Francesca and Zak are closer than ever (well, closer than like two days ago when they first met…).
“So, what do you have planned for our next date?” she joked.
The movie ends with Zak in his brand new car, a red convertible, with his new girlfriend, his sister who’s finally being nice to him, and his kidnapper/hostage who, thanks to a wonky invention, is now around Zak’s age. They all drive off into the sunset…well, they all zoom down a street with the police chasing after them until Zak freezes time, that is. Same thing.
It’s been 15 years since I first watched Clockstoppers and I still enjoy it. It’s cheesier watching it as an adult, but it’s still fun and nostalgic. Again, not so much of a rom-com, but it has its moments and its scenes. And just one aesthetically-pleasing, romantic sequence, a la the frozen water scene, is enough to add it to my list.
What’s your favorite scene from Clockstoppers? What would you do if you could stop time? Share in the comments below!