Proving that even dreadful movies can get sequels as long as they keep (inexplicably) making money, the Fantastic Four are back in “Rise of the Silver Surfer.”
While this second installment actually does improve on the original, it's still got a long way to go to catch up with more superior franchises like “Spider-Man.”
“Silver Surfer” begins with Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) preparing for their wedding day. Those plans quickly take a back seat when a mysterious entity known as the Silver Surfer arrives on Earth with plans of wiping out the planet in less than a week.
The problems are compounded when the Fantastic Four discover that the evil Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) is not dead and the quartet is forced to team with Doom to stop the Silver Surfer.
My biggest problem with the original “Fantastic Four” was that it couldn't decide if it wanted to cater to kids or adults. This time it is much clearer, with the film carrying a more kid-friendly PG, but “Silver Surfer” tries to hook in the adult audience as well.
Adding Don Payne (who wrote the underrated “My Super Ex-Girlfriend”) and Mark Frost (who helped David Lynch with “Twin Peaks”) to write the screenplay is a nice touch, but their dark style isn't used to its advantage here. Instead the film feels too cartoony - so much so that I expected the high-tech Fantastic Four lair to be supplied by Acme Corporation.
Gruffudd is still too bland, while Alba seems to be more energetic in interviews discussing the film than she is on screen. Chris Evans (as the Human Torch Johnny Storm) is actually less annoying this time, while Michael Chiklis (as the rock-like creature the Thing) still fares best among the foursome.
I will admit that I have much less disdain for this installment. Maybe it is due to the addition of the Silver Surfer, who does have some cool moments visually. Maybe it is because my expectations were so much lower this time.
Whatever the reason, “Rise of the Silver Surfer” is a step in the right direction, but that doesn't make me eager for another chapter (which is imminent after a huge $57 million opening weekend).
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is “Bridge to Terabithia” (B+), the wonderful Disney adaptation of the popular children's book.
“Bridge” tells the story of Jesse (Josh Hutcherson), a young and artistically talented young boy who is having trouble at home and school.
Jesse's life is turned upside down when a new girl named Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) arrives in town. The two become friends and create a secret kingdom where anything is possible.
The ads for “Bridge” suggest a “Chronicles of Narnia” or “Lord of the Rings”-type rip-off, but the film is so much more. There is a deep message about love and friendship, with a tragic turn that may upset younger children.
Hutcherson is very good as Jesse, while Robb (who was dreadfully annoying in “Because of Winn Dixie”) has come a long way as a young actress.
“Bridge” is that rare family film that is full of confidence and intelligence, giving it the distinction of being the best film of 2007 so far in its genre.
“Bridge to Terabithia” is rated PG for thematic elements and mild language and is now available on DVD.