Continuing our little adventure into the 1999 onslaught of DCOMs is the first one that came out that year and one of the most popular. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. This movie was one that I enjoyed watching when I was younger and I still enjoy it today. The best thing about it is that itâ€™s fun in a small TV movie sort of way. It has solid performances and a solid plot and presented itself much better than most DCOMs.
The story of Zenon takes place in the surprisingly close future of 2049 (only 50 years from when the film was made) with the unusual life of Zenon Karr who along with her family lives aboard the giant WyndcomÂ Space Station. The Wyndcom Space Station was built so that scientists could carry on experiments in a pure neutral type environment or perform experiments that couldnâ€™t possible be performed safely on Earth due to the gravitational and other variable limitations. In the Space Station they grow their own food (itâ€™s explained in the film) and are able to function perfectly by themselves along with the funding from the Wyndcom corporation of course. Unfortunately the Space Station hasnâ€™t been producing much of late and the CEO is coming up to the station to observe and decide whether to pull the funding or not. The crew, the scientists and their families are encouraged to be on their best behavior and to work harder than ever to prove that their lives in space and the research (mostly important medical science) are too important to lose. The pressure is put more on Zenon because she can be quite a troublemaker.
There is a subplot about Zenon winning a contest to dance onstage with her favorite rock band when they come to the space station for the first concert in space that the film uses well when the conclusion draws near. When the CEO Parker Wyndom and his assistant Lutz arrive everyone seems to like him and his visit for the most part runs smoothly. Zenon during her midnight prowls stumbles upon Lutz trying to gain access to the main computer room of the station and Lutzâ€™s very suspicious behavior regarding the room makes Zenon convinced that Wyndom and Lutz are up to no good. When spying on Lutz she sees him tampering with the main computer while trying to leave she inputs the wrong code and sounds the alarm and is caught. When she tries to explain herself no one believes her especially when her reputation is considered. The Commander is lenient enough that the punishment is left up to Zenonâ€™s parents and they decide to â€œgroundâ€ her and itâ€™s no the normal grounding it means sheâ€™s being grounded to Earth. Why is it such a big deal? Well apparently Earth to the kids up there is Hell. There is a huge thing up there that Earth is a terrible place. Their reasons are true, but they make it sound like thatâ€™s all there is to it when Earth is much more complex and beautiful than that despite the dangers. Then it becomes the Prodigal Son and the Fish Out of Water story. During her banishment to Earth she finds the simple pleasures as well as the diversity of Earthâ€™s environments and even finds love and finds the important things in life that she must protect when she finds out that she was right. Wyndcom is in financial trouble and so Wyndom and Lutz conspired to plant an untraceable virus into the main computer and have it self destruct and kill everyone aboard and collecting the insurance. Since Lutz is incompetent he dropped the disc with the virus on it on the floor after installing it and Zenonâ€™s friend Nebula gave it to her as an earring just before she left to Earth. Lutz and Wyndom are desperate to retrieve the disc so they donâ€™t have a trail leading back to them. Zenon and her boyfriend bring this information to a computer genius in their class and he creates a program that can kill the virus and all Zenon has to do is get the disc up there and kill the virus. Zenon remembers that she is the one that won the contest to dance with her favorite singer so she goes to the shuttle site and convinces the star named Protozoa to take her with him. She gets up there foils the evil plot and saves the day.
The plot is very standard, but holds up well. Now if you know anything about insurance or insurance fraud then the villain plot should easily fall apart because of all the faults in it. First wouldnâ€™t there be an investigation both with company resources as well as Federal. The truth is going to come out from one source or another. Another thing is Zenon couldnâ€™t find out on her own that Wyndcom wasnâ€™t doing well financially. Wouldnâ€™t she be able to figure it out through the business section of the newspaper or look at the stock health of the company? The fact that middle schoolers can hack into their system is just silly and takes you out of the villain scheme. Also if the villains hadnâ€™t tried to pursue Zenon no one would have been the wiser. If they hadnâ€™t pursued her she wouldnâ€™t have figured out the significance of the disc and caught on to the plan. And last is why would they ever think that sending a high profile rock group up into space to get blown up would keep suspicions away from them? If anything it they would be under more scrutiny!!!! So the villain plot is dumb and doesnâ€™t add up, but what sells this movie is this future and Zenonâ€™s interactions with the various things on Earth.
The characters of Zenon are for the most part pretty likeable. The cast is quite good with very few to non existent terrible performances that make you want to kill yourself. Donâ€™t worry weâ€™ll get to that later in the sequels. It has a strong supporting cast despite the lameness of the villains and Zenon is a likeable lead and character.
Wyndam: played by Frederick Coffin/ Lutz played by Bob Bancroft
As I stated their plan has so many holes in it itâ€™s not even funny. Theyâ€™re pretty forgettable and bland as villains. I mean seriously Wyndam sends Lutz to follow Zenon when he has a corporation thatâ€™s not bankrupt just yet he could I donâ€™t know hire professionals? Iâ€™m just sayinâ€™.
Nebula: played by Raven
Before Raven got her own show she played Zenonâ€™s best friend. Sheâ€™s the solid typical best friend and is integral to helping Zenon save the day and getting her out of sticky situations.
Commander Edward Plank: played by Stuart Pankin
Commander Plank as the title implies is the commander of the Space Station. He is very well portrayed as the Commander who truly loves his job and would do anything to protect his station. He cares about everyone aboard and even though heâ€™s the hardest on Zenonâ€™s behavior he grows to care about her and eventually become her uncle.
Mark Karr: played by Greg Thirloway/ Astrid Karr: played by Gwynyth Walsh
I find Zenonâ€™s parents to be quite enjoyable. The mom is the typical overbearing mother, but when sheâ€™s in those dorky looking stress helmets it always gets a slight grin out of me. The father is actually one of my favorite characters. Heâ€™s just the cool parent. Heâ€™s understanding, but is very stern when he has to be and when it truly matters. He brings such energy and warmth to the film and itâ€™s great!
Greg: played by Gregory Smith
Greg is Zenonâ€™s love interest of the film and heâ€™s the typical nice guy that tries to befriend Zenon and acclimate her to her new environment. He shows her the small and diverse pleasures of Earth such as the ocean, the forests and horseback riding and other interactions with animals and even the rain. These great connections between the two is what makes the relationship and the overall story interesting and engaging.
Protozoa: played by Phillip Rhys
My second favorite character in the movie! This guy is just awesome! The delightful over the top performance, the coolness and cheerfulness of the character, the charisma is hilarious and heâ€™s not a bad singer either, but that will be discussed later. Heâ€™s just awesome and cool!
Zenon Karr: played by Kirsten Storms
Zenon is a very likeable lead and I believed Kirsten Storms is cute and cheerful. Now there are times where the character stumbled into the area of annoying, but there is a certain charm about her that makes the performance work. Since the villain plot doesnâ€™t offer much itâ€™s Zenonâ€™s experiences on Earth and interactions with Greg that really make this film work. You really feel that the character has gone through a good experience.
The score is just okay, but the real awesome part of the music is the song â€œSupernova Girlâ€ sung by the character of Protozoa and his band! This song is catchy!!!!!! Itâ€™s well written and is sung well and is just awesome! Did I mention itâ€™s catchy!!!!!!!!!!!!
The effects are okay even for a low budget TV movie. The CG image of the Space Station looks like a Windows 95 Screensaver, but it works okay. One thing I do want to talk about are the costumes. I normally donâ€™t talk about costumes, but I had to for this film. Is it me or do the uniforms of the Space Station people look like 1970s Tomorrowland Cast member costumes? They seriously do! I donâ€™t even think in 50 -40 years from now people will dress like that! Iâ€™m probably right which I find very amusing that 1970s Tomorrowland Cast Member costumes still live!
While the plot of the villains isnâ€™t up to par the likeable cast and characters along with a really catchy song and great experiences of our lead character make up for any lost points. This is one of the better Disney Channel Original Movies. Join me next time where I look at another 1999 DCOM starring Kirsten Storms again except this time as a supporting character in the film Johnny Tsunami!
Verdict: 3.7 earring discs out of 5Â