‘Zoom’ gets its only style points by being clever

Yet another average Canadian-Brazilian semi-animated film — well, all right, probably the first — “Zoom” definitely charts its own course. It takes a while for this movie to reveal exactly what’s going on, but when it does, it gets more interesting.

Three separate stories unfold along parallel lines. We meet an artist, Emma (Alison Pill, from “Midnight in Paris”) who works for a company that manufactures very lifelike sex dolls. As though intimidated by the perfectly-contoured bodies around her workshop, she gets breast implants, something she quickly regrets.

She draws a cartoon strip that becomes the film’s second storyline. Here she sketches her ideal man, a handsome movie director named Edward (Gael Garcia Bernal, from “Rosewater”). These scenes in the movie are entirely animated, so — although we can see and hear that it’s obviously Gael Garcia Bernal in the role — he’s never present in the flesh, as it were.

Edward is directing a movie about a supermodel, Michelle (Brazilian star Mariana Ximenes), who sets her mind on writing a novel; she impulsively flees to South America to work on the book, and look soulfully at the sea. Her boyfriend (Jason Priestley, in good mock-heroic mode) doesn’t think much of the idea. (These scenes aren’t animated.)

These three stories, which largely revolve around sex and sexual frustration, keep circling each other. There’s a payoff at the end, which director Pedro Morelli orchestrates in a satisfying way.

The problem is getting there. The concept itself is intriguing, but the stories are not hugely engaging on their own. Edward and his toadying producer (Don McKellar) have some funny Hollywood banter, and Alison Pill has an effective comic deadpan. (She’s also a good sport about wearing prosthetics, about which we will say no more.)

But the forward momentum isn’t there. When Edward gets pressured to spice up his arthouse picture with more action, we see that reflected in Michelle’s story. But it doesn’t make our viewing experience any livelier.

“Zoom” assumes we’ll be satisfied with the cleverness of its interlocking pieces. The concept is clever, all right, but once you get past it there’s not enough material to really fill the container — no matter how cool the container is.

“Zoom” 2 stars

A Canadian-Brazilian co-production that weaves three different storylines together. The tales are led by a comic-strip artist (Alison Pill), a film director (Gael Garcia Bernal, seen only in cartoon form), and a model-turned-novelist (Mariana Ximenes). The concept is more clever than the actual execution, alas. In English and Portuguese, with English subtitles.

Rating: Not rated; probably R for nudity, subject matter

Showing: Grand Illusion theater

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