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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Super Fun
by Betty Jo Tucker

Although panned by many of my favorite critics, Fantastic Four worked for me because of its emphasis on pure entertainment: no soul-searching angst or deep messages interfere with its appealing eye-candy, fast-paced fun and cheesy special effects. After watching such recent downers as War of the Worlds and Dark Water, I found this campy film version of Marvel’s longest-running comic book series to be a breath of fresh air.

Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis deliver extremely watchable performances as male members of “The Fantastic Four,” a name given to four scientists who were transformed into superheroes as the result of a space mishap. Rounding out this remarkable quartet is Jessica Alba (Sin City) in the role of Sue Storm/aka the Invisible Woman. Alba channels Angelina Jolie here, and she almost looks like Jolie’s clone, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Gruffudd (of TV Horatio Hornblower fame) plays the elastic Mr. Fantastic/aka scientist Reed Richards in the same way he would perform Hamlet. He exudes a gravitas that transcends the silly material -- which makes his detail-driven character all the more believable, in spite of the movie’s cartoon plot. Because Sue and Reed were formerly a romantic couple, it’s intriguing to watch them try working together again. Always ruled by his head instead of his heart, Reed attempts to deal dispassionately with Sue’s relationship with another man, but he can’t quite accept it. Gruffudd excels at showing wounded masculinity in scenes with the lovely Alba.       

In the film’s flashiest role, Evans (Cellular) seems to be having a ball as the Human Torch/aka Johnny Storm (Sue’s brother). Career-wise, he’s on fire here (sorry, I couldn't resist), stealing most of the scenes from the other actors. He projects a playful, self-confident and rebellious attitude as a young man determined to use his new superhero celebrity status to earn money and attract women.

Chiklis (from TV’s The Shield), as the Thing/aka Ben Grimm, does an excellent job projecting his rage and his vulnerability after being transformed into a stony monster who frightens even his own wife. Chiklis is especially effective in a sensitive bar scene featuring a blind woman who wants to know what he looks like.           

Finally, what’s a superhero movie without a villain we love to hate? Thankfully, Fantastic Four gives us Julian McMahon (from TV’s Nip/Tuck), who brings the evil businessman, Victor Von Doom, to life with such delicious cynicism and style. No doubt we’ll see the metallic Dr. Doom again, even though he appears to be disposed of quite creatively at the end of this movie.

Fantastic Four may not be as spectacular as The Incredibles nor as dramatic as X-Men, but I had more fun watching it than either of those terrific superhero movies. It’s just what the doctor ordered for my summertime blues.      

(Released by Twentieth Century Fox and rated “PG-13” for sequences of intense action and some suggestive content.)

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