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Fantastic Four

Escapists Fantasies that Entertain

Summer movies are all about escapism, about entering into a world in which anything is possible and which most things which would never ever make sense in the "real" world are perfectly plausible for an hour and a half. Movies based on comics are the crème de la crème of the reality-defying genre. The Fantastic Four has officially joined their venerable ranks.

The handsome Ioan Gruffudd (King Arthur) plays Reed Richards, a genius with low social skills, and his sidekick is played with flare by Michael Chiklis ("The Shield") as Ben Grimm, a brawny scientist (do those even exist?). Richards' company is in a financial slump, so they are forced to approach his rival, the flamboyant, greedy and insanely rich Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon of "Nip/Tuck" fame), to fund their newest project -- researching a cosmic radiation cloud in space and how it can affect DNA (the answer: a lot). Joining the team are Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) and her younger brother Johnny (Chris Evans) as the head pilot.

Needless to say, the team gets exposed to the radiation cloud. Soon they all discover the varying ways in which they are all affected: Richards body can now bend any which way turning him into Mr. Fantastic, Grimm is now made of solid rock as The Thing, Susan can make herself both invisible and create force fields as The Invisible Woman and The Human Torch, Johnny, can set himself on fire and fly. Of course, what action movie doesn't have a villain? Von Doom turns into Doctor Doom, a metallic being who can manipulate electricity.

Surprisingly, the first half focuses on character development rather than action. It follows the scientists cum mutants and how they cope with their newfound powers; e.g. in one scene Mr. Fantastic shouts, "We're scientists, not celebrities!" to a group of onlookers and reporters. The initial slower pacing infuses the film with an air of serious drama amidst the silly plot lines and outlandish scenarios. This weightiness, however, does not last long.

These have to be the best looking scientists to ever hit space (no offense NASA). Ms. Storm looks no older than nineteen and dons a full face of make-up everywhere she goes and her younger brother Johnny wouldn't qualify to operate a roller coaster ride at a county fair much less a ten billion dollar spaceship. Other than the high level of suspended belief it takes to swallow the movie's characters and several ridiculous scenes, including one in which Grimm's wife runs out into the street clad only in a flimsy blue slip and then subsequently just-so-happens to be at the scene of an accident on the Brooklyn Bridge where she dismisses him in the cruelest imaginable way, the Fantastic Four is quite entertaining.

Johnny/The Human Torch is responsible for most of the movie's funniest and most memorable lines. In one instance, after Reed extends his hand under a door and proceeds to unlock it on the other side showcasing his newly discovered powers of plasticity, Johnny merely pauses before voicing what eighty percent of the theater is thinking, "That's gross!" Ha ha. The Fantastic Four may not be rocket science but it is engrossing, amusing and a good time.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars