Move over, Charlie Kaufman—Matt Hansen is trying to steal your thunder. In “Zoom” he and director Pedro Morelli deliver a convoluted comic brain-teaser that aims to delight but doesn’t possess the wit needed to pull the trick off. Sporadically amusing but too often pedestrian, its mixture of live-action and rotoscopic animation fails to deliver the vibrancy promised by the title.
The movie is a tripartite contraption. The initial story focuses on Emma (Alison Pill), an aspiring graphic novelist who works making life-sized dolls to gratify the firm’s customers, including an eccentric fellow (Michael Eklund) who orders a specially-made sex object in the image of his ex-wife. Emma regularly has sex with her scruffy co-worker Bob (Tyler Labine), but hopes to have breast augmentation to make her look more like her plastic creations.
The novel that Emma is drawing makes up the second story done in animation. Its main figure is Edward (Gael Garcia Bernal), a movie director famous for his successful action blockbusters who’s putting the final touches to an ambitious “art” film that disappoints the studio and even his agent (Don McKellar). That film focuses on Michelle (Mariana Ximenes), a beautiful model who’s trying to write a novel. It turns out that its main character is none other than Emma.
Within each tale, complications ensue. Emma and Bob get involved in a caper plot involving a doll’s head in which a cocaine shipment is concealed. Meanwhile Emma in a fit of pique, makes Edward’s penis shrivel up, and his obsession with fixing the problem via a prosthetic device leads him to abandon his film, leaving reshoots to his agent, with horrifying results. Michelle, meanwhile, is effectively taken captive by her boyfriend (Jason Priestley), who’s worried that she’ll slip out of his control.
Hansen and Morelli shuffle all of this together, juggling bits and pieces of all three stories into a reasonably coherent whole. The problem is that they don’t do so with the glee and abandon that the conceit demands. As a result while there are moments strewn throughout that are engaging, much of “Zoom” comes across as oddly bland and tepid. And while the cast is composed of able folks, none of them really takes off into the zaniness the material demands. The same thing can be said of the film’s technical side. The picture looks okay, but one might have expected more visual pizzazz from on the craft side. Even Morelli’s direction rarely goes into high gear.
The result is a picture more notable for its aspiration rather than its accomplishment. “Zoom” never gives you the rush it aims for.