Over the last few years, superhero/comic book movies have been taking themselves with increasing seriousness. Fantastic Four wants
none of that.

The latest Marvel adaptation goes for jokes over drama and wants nothing more than to be wholesome family entertainment with more than
a hint of cheese. And there is nothing wrong with this. After all, the Fantastic Four are kind of lightweight heroes in the first place.

The problem is that the story by Michael France and Mark Frost doesn't distinguish itself from other superhero movies in any significant
way. It just feels like an exercise in connect-the-dots. The main characters receive powers, deal with adversity, and then fight the evil
villain. The plot is completely straightforward and without any twists or flair. The baddie, Dr. Doom, isn't even given a devious plan. He's just
a bad guy and nothing more.

In fact, the characters in general are fairly uninteresting. Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) is too stiff and The Thing (Michael Chiklis) is basically
The Hulk. Jessica Alba is The Invisible Girl and is about as convincing a scientist as Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough. At least
Alba plays it with a certain innocent charm (not to mention extreme hotness). The exception is The Human Torch played by Chris Evans as a
cocky jock type. His character gets to have a lot of fun and Evans runs with it and never looks back.

The action sequences aren't exactly thrilling, but they do get the job done and at times provide good entertainment. I liked the final fight
with Dr. Doom in particular.

The film also gets a slight boost from John Ottman's score and some decent visual effects.

Even though Fantastic Four has some good moments, it doesn't do enough to warrant a recommendation. Too many of the jokes fall flat and
it is just too routine of an overall experience. Although fairly harmless, fantastic it is far from.

* *
(out of four)
Directed by: Tim Story

Written by: Mark Frost and Michael France

Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans,
Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon

Cinematography by: Oliver Wood

Music by: John Ottman

Released: July 8, 2005; 123 Minutes