Movie Review

'Surfer' wipes out

Staff WriterJune 15, 2007 

  • 1 1/2 stars

    Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis.

    Director: Tim Story.

    Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

    Web site: www.fantasticfourmovie.com.

    Theaters: Apex: Beaver Creek. Cary: Crossroads. Chapel Hill: Lumina. Timberlyne. Durham: Phoenix. Southpoint. Wynnsong. Garner: Towne Square. White Oak. Morrisville: Park Place. Raleigh: Brier Creek. Carmike. Grande. Mission Valley. North Hills. Six Forks. Wakefield. Roxboro: Palace. Smithfield: Smithfield.

    Rating: PG (sequences of action violence, mild language and innuendo).

To paraphrase a line from an Amy Winehouse song, what kind of suckery is this?

That question came to mind during "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer." It's a question that addresses two very pressing matters about this movie: how much the movie stinks and how much of a sucker you have to be to plunk down money for a ticket.

To be honest with you, I don't know why I'm being so cynical about this flick. It's not like I had high expectations for it. The 2005 original didn't exactly knock my socks off -- or anybody else's. In fact, I'm certain it left many fanboys' drawers in a bunch. So, if you thought the first one royally stunk, expect this one to stink about the same level.

"Rise" has the gang of four from Marvel Comics acting more like characters on a nighttime soap than superheroes. Rubbery-limbed Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and his occasionally invisible, force-field-creating boo Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) are supposed to head down the altar. But the media keeps hounding them.

Her brother, cocky human torch Johnny (Chris Evans), is starting to re-examine his lonely, swinging-bachelor lifestyle. And literal rock star Ben "The Thing" Grimm (Michael Chiklis) is just happy he doesn't go through the day accidentally killing people with his bare hands.

But when a metallic-looking dude on a surfboard comes from space and swoops down on Earth, declaring the planet will soon be destroyed, the foursome has to put their personal lives aside, get the heads back in the game and save the freakin' world!

"Rise" is a movie that never rises above cheap TV-movie theatrics. The original's director, Tim Story, continues his knack for giving studio blockbusters that shoddy, straight-to-bootleg-DVD look. He takes the toothless script (penned by three TV scribes), throws in some CGI effects here and there, and gives the proceedings even less bite. The stars still act like they can't believe they got the job, mostly wisecracking and/or bathetically emoting their way through their sitcomy, already barely written characters. Even the so-called silvery baddie of this piece (voiced by Laurence Fishburne, of all people) is a wooden creation, looking more like one of those male models on dance-mix CDs than the Surfer so many know and love. By the way, we also have Julian McMahon back as villain Victor Von Doom, strutting around like a pimp who has misplaced his ladies.

If there's anything that separates "Rise" from the original, it's that "Rise" is a movie that has low expectations of itself. It doesn't even attempt to redeem or distance itself from the misguided original. The sequel stays stagnant -- dare I say, consistent -- in the lousiness of the franchise.

Perhaps the most offensive flaw of "Rise" is its overwhelming enthusiasm to dumb itself down for the easy family dollar. I've had a person or two remind me that this movie is mostly aimed at the kiddies. So, I guess the comic-book fans who have devoted their lives to reading about these characters, not to mention novices who just want their summer movies to come with some kind of inventive edge, have to sit this one out for the sake of the children. Sure, the children may enjoy this summer-movie spectacle, but what about everybody else?

In the end, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" is a movie that doesn't even try -- to be better, to be different, to even appeal to audiences other than 10-year-olds. And, if you ask me, that's what really stinks.

Staff writer Craig D. Lindsey can be reached at 829-4760, craig.lindsey@newsobserver.com or blogs.newsobserver.com/unclecrizzle.

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