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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Telefilm > Sciecne Fiction > Children > Ben 10: Race Against Time (2008/Warner DVD/Live Action Telefilm)

Ben 10: Race Against Time (2008/Warner DVD/Live Action Telefilm)


Picture: C     Sound: C-     Extras: D     Feature: C+



It's surprising these days how much of the children's programming aimed at kids aged 10-15 is actually becoming watch-able for a more adult audience.  Whether that is due to the rise in quality of children's programming or a decline in maturity of today's adults is neither here nor there.  The bottom line is: if you have kids, you can use them as an excuse to buy Ben 10: Race Against Time. If you don't have kids and you just happen to enjoy the fine programming on the Cartoon Network, then more power to you.


This movie, originally released on the air in late 2007, is a live-action adaptation of the animated Ben 10 series on Cartoon Network.  It is a bit disappointing to find that only a few of the voice actors from the show carry over roles into this adaptation, and those only providing voices for the various alien life forms that the title character inhabits.  However, this does make room for the movie to earn some serious superhero cred by casting Lee Majors, who you may know better as The Six Million Dollar Man, as Ben's grandfather.  You may also recognize Robert Picardo as The Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager and Aloma Wright as Laverne from Scrubs.


The show revolves around Ben Tennyson, who while on a summer road trip with his grandfather and cousin happens upon an alien device, called the Omnitrix, which attaches itself to Ben's arm and gives him the ability to take the shape of any one of ten alien life-forms.  Ben then uses these abilities to episodically battle other aliens week after week.  Our movie picks up after the show when Ben has returned to his hometown of Bellwood and starts school again.  The first part of the movie revolves around Ben suffering from Peter Parker Syndrome as school and real life prove to be more challenging than battling aliens over the fate of the world and he starts to wish he got some credit for his super-heroic efforts.  All this goes on while the villain, Eon, plots quietly with his cronies hidden behind the giant clock in town square.  The second part of the movie picks up when Eon begins to put his plans into motion to steal the Omnitrix and activate the Hands of Armageddon.  As the plot unravels, Ben learns more about the nature of the Omnitrix and the underlying secrets of his seemingly boring hometown.


As far as high-flying superhero adventure goes, the action sequences leave something to be desired.  Each of the alien bodies is rendered entirely in computer animation of varying degrees of quality, the highest end being two full steps above the level one usually sees in a movie produced for the Sci-Fi channel, and the lower end about on par with the 90's television series Reboot.  In addition, the fight scenes involving Eon's henchmen inevitably invoke memories of the Power Rangers beating up Putties.  While personally I have nothing but fondness for the Power Rangers, the readiness of this comparison does nothing but undermine the movie's attempts to rise above the stigma of children's programming.


Because of the original television release, the film is presented in full screen format.  The picture quality is decent with just a little bit of extra video noise, but the frame is generally active enough that it is effectively masked.  The sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a score that almost seems to go out of its way to be exactly like the score from every other children's movie ever.  The mixing is fine for the majority of the film, but in the more action-packed scenes the music and the sound-effects tend to step on each others' toes a bit.


The five extra features on the disc are more superfluous than informative.  They seem to be there just because someone decided there should be something there, and consist almost entirely of interviews and the same three clips from the movie played over and over again.  The one feature that does not fall in this category is the video of the director's speech at the premier which was very apparently shot on a handheld camera with no external microphone and really doesn't need to be on the disc at all.


While the disc as a whole is generally found to be lacking, the movie is fun as a light entertainment that satisfies the slightly geeky preteen in all of us.  And while the plot hasn't got a lot of complexity, the acting is stiff at times, and the CGI is less than convincing, that almost adds to the film's appeal.  I wouldn't put in the category of "so bad it's good" but rather, it inspires a nostalgia for a time in our lives when we didn't notice that kind of thing when we watched a movie.



-   Matthew Carrick


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