Movie Review: Craptastic Four

Movies and Television

What smells? OK. You hear about a movie being savaged by the critics and you go into the theater thinking, it can’t be that bad. You come out thinking, oh yes it can.

But before you can even get to that, you are forced to sit through the preview for The Dukes of Hazzard, a testosterone laden, T and A flashing, muscle car movie, based on a stupid testosterone laden, T & A flashing, muscle car TV show.

What’s sad about Fantastic Four is that they had such strong source material: a popular comic book series, four unique superheroes and endless possibilities for a movie. The formula is simple: lots of CGI, clever witty dialogue, and a smart director. You don’t even need megastars for the leads; just cast attractive “character” actors with some talent. Foolproof right? Wrong.

I cite Douglas Adams: “A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

The powers that be behind Fantastic Four are total, blithering idiots because they missed on almost every note. What’s sadder still is that at a cost of $70-$100 million, with foreign ticket sales, tie-ins and merchandising, DVD revenues and the like, this might actually spawn a sequel.

Let me start off by saying that I’ve never read the comics, so I cannot speak about how much the story has changed from its roots, but the core is still there. To sum up, five people go into space to study a rare and powerful cosmic cloud. Reed Richards, allegedly brilliant egghead scientist and ex of Sue Storm, and his best friend Ben Grimm, hard-nosed former NASA guy, sell their souls to Victor Von Doom for a ride to his personal space station to study this magic cloud. Vic brings along his resident egghead and current flame, Sue Storm who then enlists her NASA washout pilot brother Johnny to tag along.

Cue the cloud mojo and everyone is changed. Reed becomes flexible and Mr. Fantastic; Ben becomes a super strong rock guy called the Thing; Susan, the Invisible Woman, who can project force fields; Johnny, the Human Torch and can fly; and Victor goes all evil, into Dr. Doom.

The direction, what little there is, seems half-hazard and spotty. The dialogue is weak, lame and groan-worthy. A high school student could have penned better. The special effects are pedestrian at best, and at worst (Mr. Fantastic is like Gumby only not so good) awful; you can see better effects on SciFi.

The two worst aspects of the film are the acting and the plot.

Michael Chiklis does about the best job he can with what he’s given in Ben Grimm. He does at least portray Ben’s anguish over his transformation and his antagonism towards Johnny well. He’s given a silly love story sub-plot, which includes the NOT original angle of a blind woman. What’s messed up here is, for such a “strong” guy, his flimsiness. Not to give anything away, but he goes back and forth from distrust, then trusting, then not rather easily. . I love irony, but I’m not sure the brain trust behind this crap is smart enough to have done that deliberately.

Chris Evans also does an ok job with the rogue, daredevil Johnny. He gets the best lines, and has the requisite gym body and all. While he’s kind of an obnoxious jerk, it’s all done in more or less a fun way, as he’s the only one here that’s not a total downer. More a cocky little shit.

The wheels fall off the wagon with the rest of the casting. Julian McMahon, who’s good on Nip/Tuck, is just not given anything to work with at all. He gives it his best bad-guy impersonation (He was better as a demon on fucking Charmed.), but there’s no set up for him to just flip, and not enough was done costume/voice/make-up-wise to make his transformation into Dr. Doom all that more evil and menacing than he was as Victor. Ioan Gruffudd is just wrong as Reed. It’s such a nothing character to begin with, and he makes him even more vacant and less sympathetic, and a far, far cry from fantastic. Mediocre would be an improvement and as leading man, forget charm he has anti-charisma.

Jessica Alba, whom I watched on the guilty pleasure Dark Angel, is just here as eye candy. (Every time she appeared on screen in something tight or revealing, the young men in the audience oohed and aahed and groaned audibly and I rolled my eyes, thinking “Keep it in your pants, losers.”) Beyond miscast as a scientist–allegedly a brilliant college graduate, who can’t think to lock the bathroom door–she can barely speak her lines clearly, let alone emote anything convincing under the 20 pounds of make-up pilled on her. She makes Sue Storm so shrill and empty, you cannot possibly believe two purportedly intelligent scientists would really be all that taken with her, even with her great body and (really bad, one of the worse bottle jobs in the history of peroxide) blonde hair.

Worse is the story. It is set-up after set-up that feebly tries to advance the plot for little purpose. Every time Sue strips to go invisible, there is no reason for it. In one scene on the bridge, she goes to her underwear with allegedly a purpose of sneaking somewhere, only to be seen putting her clothes back on in the very next shot. The rest of the time is just wasted on tedious exposition about how the cloud changed them (no, really?) and learning their powers and then trying to get rid of them.

The “science” is so stupid a sixth-grader could see through it. They go to space, at considerable risk and expense, to study this rare cosmic cloud. When they are changed, the dead-broke Reed and his crew work feverishly, with the help of non-speaking scientist extras whom they cannot afford to pay, to find a cure because (with the exceptions of Johnny and Doom), they don’t want superpowers. The cure? Spoiler alert. In his lab, which is down here on Earth, he’s going to recreate the exact conditions of the rare cosmic cloud they went into space to study in the first place. And then reverse it. Ugh.

As the movie was mercifully winding to its end, I heard the voice of a teenage girl, wise beyond her years and recalling her SAT prep classes, behind me. She said, “Man, this is asinine!” She has a great career as a film critic ahead of her.

Final Snark: Stinker. $100 million covered in cow manure, lit on fire, then doused with, I don’t know, vinegar? Cat pee?

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