Blame On! Everybody has a hand in Four?s flaws.

“I’m one of the greatest minds of the 21st century,” declares Reed Richards, “and I’m engaged to the most beautiful girl on the planet.” Yeah, but he’s wearing a midnight-blue spandex unitard that shows off his weenie sac. And if you’re Ioan Gruffudd, the actor playing him, maybe you still have memories of graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and playing Horatio Hornblower, and maybe, just maybe, you’re wondering if the money was worth the terminal, career-maiming embarrassment of stretching your limbs ’round London’s Millennium Wheel and tying it up in a pretty blue bow. That’s just one of the so-so special effects on display in Tim Story’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and in case you think the folks at Marvel Entertainment are getting metaphorical on our asses, please know the guy really is silver and really rides a surfboard. Oh, and every time he shows up, a planet dies. Careers too: Andre Braugher, one of the most incendiary actors ever to grace network TV (Homicide), plays a gloweringly stupid general who somehow fails to realize that Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) is the name of a Mel Brooks character. Laurence Fishburne, as the surfer’s voice, escapes relatively unscathed, but the hardiest survivors are the ones who embrace the cartoonishness of this enterprise. Among them are Chris Evans, aka the Human Torch, whose torso is unclad at Gypsy Rose Lee intervals, and Michael Chiklis, aka the Thing, whose sense of propriety requires that his rock-pile thighs be encased in the same spandex as the rest of the crew. As for Jessica Alba, aka the Invisible Woman, some degree of pity is in order. A malevolent 8-year-old girl is clearly frog-­marching her through the full gamut of Barbie variations. Hair extensions, lipliner, eyeliner, brassiere contour—not a single element of her look remains consistent from scene to scene. I kind of dug the horn-rimmed glasses Sue puts on when she’s “being smart,” but don’t miss the daubs of neon-blue mascara she sports for the climax. How nicely they offset the lesion over her brow. If actors can be turned so efficiently into plasticine models, who needs special effects?

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