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THE FANTASTIC FOUR (1994)

title: THE FANTASTIC FOUR
year: 1994
cast: Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab, Michael Baily Smith
rating: **1/2

There’s something good within this Roger Corman made-for-TV movie, but it’s overshadowed by side-characters and situations more befitting to the Krofft brother’s universe. Not a bad thing in itself, but the actors playing this famous comic-book team-up had a lot of potential for a much cooler outing than this. Alex-Hyde White plays the assertively brainy Dr. Reed Richards, who, along with fellow college genius Victor Von Doom (with that last name, he’s bound to be a villain), attempt an experiment that fails miserably, “killing” Victor and sparing Richards. We then cut ten years later: Richards is joined by Johnny Storm, an over-the-top Jay Underwood, and one of the prettiest women this side of life, Rebecca Staab as Johnny’s sister Susan, whose childhood crush on Richards has carried over – and it’s mutual. And not forgetting Ben Grimm, portrayed with brawny charm by Michael Baily Smith. Long story short, once in space they're pummeled with mysterious cosmic rays, crash land on earth and while unaffected by that, they’ve acquired powers: Richards is a human rubber band, Johnny can make fireballs with his hand, Susan turns invisible, and Grimm’s turned into a Thing made of rocks. The side-characters include a band of thieving freaks, resembling rejects from the H.R. Puffenstuff set; two vapid thugs; and the black-masked Dr. Doom himself – way too much screen time’s spent on these while the titular superheroes, and their particular skills, are used less than sporadically until the very end: which rushes to a quick conclusion. Perhaps if there was a part two, we’d get more of what, and who, this movie’s all about. Either way, Reed Richards and Susan Storm have great chemistry. The Thing, although resembling a costume, works fine as a sympathetic hero. And The Human Torch, eventually morphing into animation, looks neat as he battles a giant laser. But all this should have occurred less than halfway through for THE FANTASTIC FOUR to successfully live up to its title. (And listen to my interview with Rebecca Staab.)
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