Cartoon Network’s animated hit “Ben 10” becomes the channel’s second live-action movie in this breezy, brisk and surprisingly fun 90-minute movie directed by Alex Winter of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” renown. OK, so some of the dialogue and special FX bring to mind “Power Rangers.” That will do little to sour kids on this ultimate child’s fantasy, while for adults, the clever casting (Lee Majors!) and generally goofy tone help make this “Race Against Time” fly by in no time at all.
In Captain Marvel-like fashion — only the “Shazam!” here is an alien wristwatch called the Omnitrix — 10-year-old Ben Tennyson (Graham Phillips) can transform himself into 10 different aliens with spectacular powers, brought to reasonably convincing animated life against this live-action backdrop. His cousin (Haley Ramm) and grandpa (Lee Majors) are in on the secret, while Ben’s New Age-y parents insist that he address them using first names and talk about his feelings.
Beyond the regular indignities he faces at school, Ben wrestles to control his powers, which are quickly put to use against Eon (Christopher Anholt), an alien invader who desperately wants the Omnitrix and whose doomsday device could destroy the world. OK, so the story and threat are a little fuzzy (cool-looking alien armada, though) — at least Eon has plenty of colorfully costumed minions available to be punched, tossed and slammed into walls.
There’s considerable action within the truncated running time (and given the otherwise kid-friendly tone, one semi-grisly death), and it’s obvious why the animated series has been popular with boys. Not only does Ben share their awkwardness with his plaintive cry of, “Oh, man!” but many boys would doubtless love to morph into Dinomutt or Heatblast and kick butt themselves.
The show also possesses the fixings of a merchandiser’s dream, which makes the effort clearly invested in this telepic more impressive because a slapdash knockoff probably would have fared roughly as well. “Ben” might not merit a 10 for creativity, but it’s certainly worthy of a solid 6 or 7, which, along with saving the Earth, isn’t a bad day’s work.