Many complaints were lobbed at Fantastic Four, the 2005 film adaptation of Marvel's long-running comic book, but no one ever suggested it was too smart. Yet it would seem that everyone came to the sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, determined to dumb it down. In the two years since defeating Dr. Doom, our heroes have apparently become flatter, duller people determined to have even more straightforward adventures than in the last film, which is no mean feat. Fantastic Four could kindly be called family fare; Surfer seems committed to leave anyone over the age of 9 out of the equation.
Rise Of The Silver Surfer opens as the familial superteam attempts to cope with their newfound celebrity, while Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) and the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) plan an oft-delayed wedding. But the appearance of a metallic-looking interstellar creature flying around on a long, board-like object—a silver surfer, one might even say—keeps getting in the way. As Alba pouts, the team sets off to save the world, with little help from an uncooperative military and a newly resurrected Doom (Julian McMahon).
It'd be a lot easier to excuse the film's juvenility if it were any fun. But the plot is mostly an excuse to scuttle the Four from one product-placement-rich environment to the next as director Tim Story reluctantly distributes some CGI-heavy action setpieces that admittedly improve on the original. Chris Evans remains amusing as the Human Torch, playing the character as a kid who suffers no trace of the angst plaguing Spider-Man and other tortured heroes. But with Chiklis' formerly depressive Thing now apparently feeling just fine about being turned into a slab of rock, Evans doesn't have much of a foil to play against.
Purists will balk at a pointless—and boring—revamp of a major villain, but that's the least of the film's worries. Only a few isolated shots of the group striding together as a team make Surfer feel like a Fantastic Four movie. The costume department got the jumpsuits right. Did anyone else even try?