An entertainment blog that pops culture right in the kisser.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

film | Surf bored

You've seen those knock-off superhero action figures dangling on the pegs at the Dollar Tree: Arachnid City Defender instead of Spider-Man, Swarthy Green Behemoth as the Incredible Hulk, Guy-Dude in place of He-Man. (Sidenote: I would totally buy a Guy-Dude action figure. Seriously.) Well, FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER is a knock-off superhero action movie: At a glance from a distance, it might resemble the real deal, but when you get close enough to examine the packaging and the paint detail and the overall craftsmanship, you'll probably realize that nearly everything about it is nine kinds of shoddy. It's right around here where the dutiful reader would remind me that 2005's original Fantastic Four smacked of Dollar Tree-ness itself, though I'd argue that, at the very least, it was comparable to the high-roller shelves at Five Below, where items cost a non-budget-threatening $5.

FF 1's silly pandering to 10-year-old boys ran neck-and-neck with a pleasant, undemanding, junky-fun (or funny-junk?) appeal, kind of the same reaction this child of the '80s has to reruns of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. In Rise of the Silver Surfer, though, the race is over, and the brazen juvenility not only leaves the entertainment value eating its dust, but it doubles back to soak any straggling charm in a mighty torrent of urine — and it had asparagus and Bac-Os for dinner, folks. So soon after the crummy Spider-Man 3, do we really need to see another superhero busting a move on the dance floor? Hell no, but here's the elastic Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) winding his ropy limbs around a mob of delighted female admirers at a disco club regardless. It's his bachelor party on the eve of his nuptials to the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) —  her powers: self-explanatory — but the celebration is cut short after what appears to be a chrome-plated Kelly Slater from outer space zips into our atmosphere and incites some alarming apocalyptic phenomena in Egypt, Japan and, of course, the U.S.

Okay, here's the thing: This Silver Surfer dude, as I've been told by too many friends who dig the old FF comics, is a pretty badass character, but Rise portrays him as a liquid-metal mannequin who speaks in soporific end-of-the-world portents (Laurence Fishburne provides his ominous timbre) and is brought to life via CGI effects that were more exciting in Terminator 2, oh, 16 years ago. He's the subservient summoner of a planet-devouring cosmic force known as Galactus, who's realized here as a cosmic funnel cloud, and not the über-imposing interstellar deity of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's 1960s source material. This botches the climactic showdown — cardboard X-Men rejects (Chris Evans' piping-hot Human Torch and Michael Chiklis' Thing, a brick house with limbs and a temper, complete the bickering quartet) vs. a giant tornado — but hey, it's not like the movie, with its witless jabs at celebrity culture (Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman's wedding is a major media event) and anemic action sequences (the good guys save endangered patrons on the crumbling London Eye: swell!), suddenly took a turn for the worse. No, the whole show's a clunky sham, right down to the overblown title: The Silver Surfer doesn't rise as much as he crashes a chintzy toy convention you were already jonesing to leave anyway. D


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