'Aaron Stone'

Ah, to be young again, so that a concept as familiar as "Aaron Stone" would taste minty fresh.

Ah, to be young again, so that a concept as familiar as “Aaron Stone” would taste minty fresh. Launching its boy-channel Disney XD with this serviceable action show, Disney’s latest kid-oriented series draws upon one of the oldest fantasies around: You know that videogame you’re so good at? It’s real, and only you can save the world. Too bad the toys and action are just so-so, meaning the program’s fate will depend on how well kids can identify with Kelly Blatz as the reluctant high-school hero. At least it’s something to do until that “Tron” remake materializes.

Actually, “Stone” bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the 1980s movie “The Last Starfighter,” which also involved a single-parented kid who excels at a videogame that is, in fact, a test to find a genuine hero. In this case, only the forms of play have evolved, inasmuch as Charlie (Blatz) is a champ at the role-playing game Hero Rising, where he thwarts bad guys as his indomitable avatar Aaron Stone.

Soon (but not quite soon enough), he’s whisked off to meet the game’s creator, and told by his helpful sidekick S.T.A.N. (J.P. Manoux) that Charlie is the last hope to thwart the Omega Alliance, which wants to unleash all manner of perils (the first being a vague toxin) upon mankind. Meanwhile, Charlie flirts with the girl next door (Tania Gunadi) and quarrels with his younger brother (David Lambert), when he isn’t donning a black-leather X-Men-type suit to board a super-cool jet and leap into chopsocky battle.

The quality of that action, alas — in an origin spread over two half-hours — is roughly of the Power Rangers variety, with a lot of loud music and jumping/kicking/ray-blasting, to relatively little effect. Nor does it help that the premiere (written by series creator Bruce Kalish) indulges in dialogue like, “They are the disease. You are the cure,” which may be the first-ever child-friendly homage to Sylvester Stallone’s “Cobra.”

For all that, “Aaron Stone” is such a familiar Walter Mitty-esque (or if you want to be a stickler, Arthurian) fantasy that younger kids might buy into. Yet while the Disney Channel has certainly excelled at courting young girls, boys are a taller (and more hyperactive) order — the hurdle being that a show about videogames, at the very least, needs to be nearly as interesting as the videogames they might otherwise be off playing.

Aaron Stone

Series; Disney XD, Fri. Feb. 13, 7 p.m.

Production

Taped in Toronto by Shaftesbury Services. Executive producers, Bruce Kalish, Suzanne French; co-executive producer, Gail Hickman; director, Pat Williams; writer, Kalish;

Crew

Camera, Steve Danyluk; production designer, Gordon Barnes; editor, Ben Wilkinson; casting, Judy Taylor. 30 MIN.

Cast

Aaron Stone/ Charlie Landers - Kelly Blatz S.T.A.N. - J.P. Manoux Emma Lau - Tania Gunadi Jason Landers - David Lambert

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