Sequel remains hardly ‘Fantastic’

A mainstay of the Marvel Comics pantheon, the Fantastic Four are being given the cut-rate treatment in the movies. The first “Fantastic Four” feature, in 2005, was modestly budgeted (at least by Hollywood standards), geared for kids and lacking in star power.

Inexplicably, it became a big hit, so here comes “Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer.” The budget is a bit higher, but this one has the same ho-hum approach as the first.

The Four have settled into their altered states. The bendable Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffud) and the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) plan to marry, and perhaps take themselves out of the Fantasticking business. This doesn’t go over well with her cocky brother, the Human Torch (Chris Evans), or the loyal Thing (Michael Chiklis).

This time the Thing is less troubled about resembling a rock pile, having married a blind woman (Kerry Washington). The Torch is looking for marketing advantages to being, well, so Fantastic. And invisibility hasn’t affected the I.W.’s ability to get a fabulous tan.

The wedding is interrupted by a cosmic disturbance, which puts the FF at war with the Silver Surfer, another storied Marvel character. There’s also the dire Galactus, but not enough of it (him?) to make fanboys happy.

The Surfer is voiced by Laurence Fishburne and embodied by Doug Jones, the amazing mime who portrayed altered-state creatures in “Hellboy” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” There’s also a lot of computer graphics involved. The character doesn’t especially come to life, although there are traces of the existential angst that marked his comic-book wanderings.

This sequel is once again aimed at a younger audience, and the jokes are accordingly broad. When Mr. Fantastic goes disco dancing at his bachelor party, you can bet that his arms will corkscrew around the shoulders of women halfway across the room.

Coming in at a brisk 90 minutes, “FFTRSS” isn’t out to be an epic. This is a lame-brained Saturday afternoon movie – but even at that, it doesn’t have enough ideas to give it kick. A bit where the Torch can exchange his superpower with the other Fantastic Three is all right at first, but repetition doesn’t improve it.

In short, the “Fantastic Four” movies are for those who found “Spider-Man” a bit too philosophically weighty. People under the age of 13 should be just fine with it.

Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) and Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) encounter the Silver Surfer in “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.”

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