Since its release, the film has grossed approximately $31 million worldwide.
Jeremy Reed (Sean Patrick Flanery), whose nickname is Powder, is an albino who has incredible intellect and is able to sense the thoughts of the people around him. His brain possesses a powerful electromagnetic charge, which causes electrical objects to function abnormally when he is around them, as well as when he becomes emotional. The electrical charge also prevents hair from growing on his body. His mother was struck by lightning while pregnant with him; she died shortly after the strike, but he survived. His father disowned him shortly after his premature birth, and he was raised by his grandparents. He lived in their basement and worked on their farm but never left their property, learning everything he knew from books. He is taken from his home when his grandfather is found dead of natural causes. Jessie Caldwell (Mary Steenburgen), a child services psychologist called in by Sheriff Doug Barnum (Lance Henriksen), takes him to a boy's home because he is now effectively a ward of the state.
Jessie enrolls Jeremy in high school, where he meets physics teacher Donald Ripley (Jeff Goldblum). Donald finds out that Jeremy has supernatural powers as well as the highest IQ in the history of mankind. While his abilities mark him as special, they also make him an outcast. On a hunting trip with his schoolmates, he is threatened with a gun by John Box (Bradford Tatum), an aggressive student who views him as a freak. Before John can fire, a gun goes off in the distance and everyone rushes to see that Harley Duncan (Brandon Smith), one of Doug's deputy who is hunting with the boys, has shot a deer, which is now dying. Anguished by its death, Jeremy touches its and Harley, inducing in Harley what the students assume is a seizure. Harley tells Doug that Jeremy had caused him to feel the pain and fear of the deer, and he can't bring himself to take another life.
Doug enlists Jeremy to help speak to his dying wife (Danette McMahon) through telepathy. Through Jeremy, Doug learns that she clings onto life because she didn't want to leave without her wedding ring on her finger and without him reconciling with his estranged son, Steven (Tom Tarantini). She tells him that Steven found the ring and it has been sitting in a silver box on her nightstand throughout the entire film. He then places it on her finger and reconciles with Steven, letting her die peacefully.
Jeremy meets Lindsey Kelloway (Melissa Lahlitah Crider), a romantic interest, but their relationship is broken by her father (Woody Watson). Before the interruption, he tells her that he can see the truth about people: that they are scared and feel disconnected from the rest of the world, but in truth are all connected to everything that exists.
Jeremy goes back to the juvenile facility and packs away his belongings, planning to run away to his deceased grandparents' farm. He pauses in the gym to stare at a male student washing, noticing the latter's luxurious head of hair as well as body hair which he himself lacks, and is caught at it by John, who accuses him of homosexuality. John steals Jeremy's hat and taunts him, but he reveals that John's words mimic what his stepfather said before beating him when he was 12, further angering him. John and the other boys humiliate Jeremy, stripping him naked and taunting him. His powers begin to manifest by pulling at their metal buttons and any piercings. Eventually a large spherical electric burst erupts throwing him in a mud puddle and everyone else to the ground. John is found still, with his heart stopped. Jeremy uses an electric shock to revive him.
In the final scene Jeremy returns to the farm, now in probate with the bank, and finds that all of his possessions have been removed. He is joined by Jessie, Donald, and Doug, who persuade him to come with them to find a place where he will not be feared and misunderstood. Instead, a thunderstorm arrives and he runs into a field where a lightning bolt strikes him, and he disappears in a blinding flash of light.
- Sean Patrick Flanery as Jeremy Reed
- Mary Steenburgen as Jessie Caldwell
- Lance Henriksen as Sheriff Doug Barnum
- Jeff Goldblum as Donald Ripley
- Brandon Smith as Deputy Harley Duncan
- Bradford Tatum as John Box
- Susan Tyrrell as Maxine
- Melissa Lahlitah Crider as Lindsey Kelloway (as Missy Crider)
- Ray Wise as Dr. Aaron Stripler
- Esteban Powell as Mitch
- Reed Frerichs as Skye
- Chad Cox as Zane
- Joe Marchman as Brennan
- Phil Hayes as Greg Reed (as Phillip Maurice Hayes)
- Danette McMahon as Emma Barnum
- Uncredited: D. Wolski (body double)
The film received generally mixed reviews from critics. It currently holds a rating of 47% ("Rotten") on Rotten Tomatoes based on 19 reviews, as of May 2011.
Caryn James of The New York Times described the film as "lethally dull" and said, "This intensely self-important film has no idea how absurd and unconvincing it is."
The film's production by Disney resulted in a controversy over the choice of director Victor Salva, who had been convicted of molesting a 12-year-old child actor in 1988. When it was released, the victim came forward again in an attempt to get others to boycott it in protest at Disney's hiring Salva. Since then, Disney has not picked up any more pictures by Salva.
The film was remade by Bollywood under the title of Alag.
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