Shooting for video game intensity, Disney's 'Aaron Stone' misses the mark

BY CAROLYN KLARECKI
Daily Arts Writer
Published February 15, 2009

“Aaron Stone”
Fridays at 7 p.m.
Disney XD

2.5 out of 5 stars

The premise of Disney XD’s “Aaron Stone” is a gamer’s wet dream. Imagine having all the special abilities and gear of the characters in a popular video game and using them to save the world. On Friday, Feb. 13, Disney launched Disney XD, which caters to the young male demographic. Disney has unintentionally been targeting pre-teen girls for too long with programs like “Hannah Montana” and “That’s So Raven.” In an effort to win back the boys, Disney has rolled out “Aaron Stone.”

Charlie Landers (Kelly Blatz, “Prom Night”) is a typical American teen who loves his mom, his brother and playing an online multi-player video game called “Hero Rising.” Much to his mother’s chagrin, Charlie often forgoes the joys offered by a more social high school life, choosing to spend his time playing as his in-game avatar, Aaron Stone. In the premiere, he’s mysteriously summoned by the game’s creator and learns the truth about “Hero Rising” — it’s not just a game. The plot of the game is real, and Charlie, the world’s best player, must become a real-life Aaron Stone and save the world.

Of course, as in all Disney kiddy shows, there are extremely noticeable holes, and the characters' ages differ greatly from the age of the actors. Watching the 20-something Blatz play a high schooler can be distracting. Though Blatz’s acting is somewhat commendable, it might have been wise to choose a younger actor to play the show’s protagonist.

Also, Charlie and his brother come off as complete brats. When their mother explains that she has to rent out their deceased father’s home office to make ends meet, the boys respond with a hissy fit, exclaiming “you can’t do this!” and “that’s so not fair!” Someone needs to tell these kids we’re in an economic recession and they need to shut the fuck up.

But the most notable — and substandard — aspect of “Aaron Stone” is Disney’s attempt to integrate computer-generated imaging into the show. The computer-generated video game footage is incredibly poor. While the production time for television might not allow developers to create state-of-the-art graphics, the video game in “Aaron Stone” takes up much of the show, and the producer’s should’ve put more effort into that essential draw.

It’s not only the shoddy imaging that ruins the illusion and gives the show a more kid-oriented feeling than necessary. Though “Aaron Stone” could have potentially appealed to older audiences, certain elements make it hard to forget that this is a kid’s show. Taking a villain named Souljacker (Ho Chow, “Man of the Year”) seriously proves difficult, and the unrealistic technology he uses undermines even an eight-year-old boy’s intelligence.

Still, the raw cool factor of “Aaron Stone” surpasses that of any other Disney show currently airing. The story is reminiscent of old Disney favorite, “The Famous Jett Jackson,” which isn’t surprising since the shows share an executive producer. It has been a long time since Disney produced anything as good as “Jett Jackson,” but with some hard work “Aaron Stone” could be just the revival Disney needs.