Review: The Secret World of Alex Mack (15) / Directed by: Various / Written by: Tommy Lynch, Ken Lipman / Starring: Laris Oleynik, Meredith Bishop, Darris Love, Dorian Lapinto, Michael Blakley, Benjamin Kimball Smith, Natanya Ross, Jessica Alba / Release Date: Out Now
The first series of Alex Mack (Larisa Oleynik) follows the formula of many high school shows focusing on issues such as popularity, the opposite sex and coming of age but add in the powers that are bestowed upon Alex by an accidental chemical spillage and the scope for a little more fun than usual makes up an amusing portrayal of awkward adolescence.
Alex is an average student who hangs out with her laidback, saxophone playing best friend Ray and is constantly overshadowed by her scientific whizz of a sister, Annie. On the way home from her first day at junior high school Alex gets covered by a chemical called GC-161 that changes her molecular structure so she can transform into liquid, control electricity and move objects with her mind. Ray and Annie are the only two people who know about Alex’s powers as she must keep it a secret from the malevolent chemical plant that runs the town.
Each episode consists of the plant’s security hatching a plan to find the contaminated teen or Alex getting into a difficult situation that forces her to use her powers. The simple premise works well with the twenty something minute running time; and it is an entertaining kids show that attempts to deliver some important messages about growing up through a fun medium. Adult viewers in want of a nostalgic 90s television trip will probably be bored by the obvious lessons each episode is doling out. It does work on the level of young kids entertainment, though with a 15 certificate given by the BBFC due to a scene where Alex hides in a tumble drier, may put parents off purchasing the DVD. The question of whether a younger audience will relate to the backward cap, oversized plaid shirt wearing 90s charm of Alex Mack is difficult to determine. The growing pains of youth are still the same, but the issues are handled without any real depth. Instead of teen angst the makers of the show have opted for a lighter tone.
The concept of a teenage girl with super powers struggling through high school dealing with the stereotypical bully (played by Jessica Alba… who mysteriously disappears after a few episodes) and daydreaming up ways to get back at her makes for comic viewing. The daydream sequences throughout are the highlight of the show as they reach to the darker humour of the teen psyche. Alex’s powers and the way she uses them are delightfully creative the first few times but watching a pile of goo slide under a door for the tenth time does deliver repetitive viewing.
Alex Mack is suitable viewing for younger kids but it lacks the darkness or the cult edge needed to spark nostalgia in adults.