Day By Day

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Back to Business As Usual -- We Went To the Movies Again! The Fantastic Four Fizzles

Well, things are finally getting back to normal. Greta is back in Aruba and Paula is broadcasting an hour-long biography of the missing girl. Politicians are trying to tear down a high administration figure. There's another storm of the century or of the week coming. All that disturbing stuff about war and suicide bombers and African oppression and plagues and such is fading into the deep background. Bout time, I say.

Today "She Who Shall Not Be Named" prevailed on me to take her to see the "Fantastic Four." All she knew about it was that it had been a comic book and it had made gazillions of dollars and it didn't have ghosts in it [she hates supernatural horror films, so Jen Connolly's new flick was out of the question]. On the way she peppered me with questions about the characters and what powers they had, and such and I answered as best I could. Actually, my comic book years predated the rise of Marvel and so my information on such things is a bit sketchy. My rememberance was that it was sort of a super-powered pseudo-family [The Richards were the sane adults and the Thing and Torch were moody, excitable teenager types]. Unfortunately, Jessica Alba is far too young to play an adult and the pseudo-teens are a bit long in the tooth for their parts.

This is a movie for teen-age geeks -- written for guys who spent their high school and college years reading comics and wishing that hot girls would notice them. The story-line is straight out of teen culture and is a compendium of teen tropes. Doc Doom and Reed Richards were schoolmate rivals -- the smartest guys in the class, but Richards won most of the science awards. Both were geeks who lusted for the hot chick, Sue Storm. She sorta liked Richards, but he was too shy to say what he felt and she moved on. She flirted with Doom, the rich kid, because he bought her nice presents, but never really gave him a tumble. She really likes Richards and they could go steady if only he could muster the self-confidence to ask her. Johnny Storm, Sue's brother, is the hot jock who gets all the cheerleaders and his greatest joy is tormenting Ben Grimm, the sensitive guy who the girls reject because he is ugly and who knows that if they could just ignore the way he looks they would find out how nice and sensitive and giving he really is.

The plot is just plain silly, comprising nothing more than verbal and physical sparring. Doom hates Richards because deep down he knows Reed is smarter than he is, and he resents the fact that once he dated the divine Sue. Johnny and Ben spar verbally, but when the chips are down they cooperate well, showing that they really respect each other under the surface. Ben is rejected by a hot chick because of his looks, but then finds a really hot blind chick who appreciates him for who he really is. There are super powers, ho hum FX, a stunningly hot Jessica Alba, a few cute jokes, but little more. The characters bicker and almost split up, and Doom comes at them with super weapons. But in the end their friendships are solid and once they realize that they really are friends they cooperate to take down Doom. I would warn you about spoilers, but if you are over the age of seven you saw every plot device come creaking at you ten minutes into the film.

The screenplay is terrible, the cinematography undistinguished, the FX are OK, but nothing special, the acting ranges from barely adequate to awful. I don't fault the actors. The characters are sketched out in such simplistic terms that they really have nothing to work with. Jessica Alba in particular was disappointing. She's a beautiful woman, but her hairstyle, costuming and makeup definitely did not flatter her here. She looked and acted like a little kid playing grownup [which, come to think of it, she is]. The direction is horrendous. Tim Story, who got some wonderful performances from the actors in Barbershop, is completely incompetent here. Actually, now that I think about it, Barbershop was a completely pedestrian effort enlivened only by the snappy dialogue. Here, the dialogue is leaden and cannot cover up Story's inadequacies.

Oh well, at least the theatre was nicely cool with comfortable seats on a hot and humid day, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

And what is with Jessica Alba's lips? Is she getting injections from Angelina Jolie's plastic surgeon?

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