Evan Almighty: 6/10
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: 5/10

It seems that every Summer has its share of bland films that appeal only to those whose attention span will prevent any thorough reflection of just how inane they really are. This year’s finest examples are Evan Almighty and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

At a surface level, both films offer plenty of razzle and dazzle, and enough of a spectacle to wow the audience with its special effects and dry humor. However, neither one of these big-budget blockbusters is able to rise above their abject mediocrity. Since I don’t want to confuse anyone, I’ll start with Evan Almighty.

Steve Carrell picks up his role from this film’s predecessor, Bruce Almighty. Evan has the misfortune of retaining Bruce’s director (Tom Shadyac) as well, which is unfortunate. Shadyac’s claim to fame is to provide Jim Carrey with his best-known vehicle, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. However, without Carry’s rubber-faced antics, his direction, and the movie as a whole, seems a bit lackluster.

Enter Industrial Light and Magic with their jaw-dropping flood sequence. Oh, yikes. I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Silly me.

Evan Almighty begins with Evan Baxter somehow winning a congressional race with the worst campaign dialogue in history: “Change the world.” Naturally, such a directive is going to need a little divine influence. Morgan Freeman once again portrays a version of God who has little to do than influence animals to flock toward poor Evan.

Thankfully, there aren’t any enlarged breast gags or dogs that pee into a toilet in this film. Instead, we have birds their drop their excrement for humor. I guess such scatological humor has to be used in some form, right? How divine.

Of course, there’s plenty to like about Evan Almighty. The story is a fun idea. After all, how neat would it be to have five or six subdivision lots paid for and plenty of gopher wood delivered at your doorstep? It’s all part of the premise. God starts off subtle (which is pretty true to life, if you ask me) with repetitive hints. The subtlety wears off after a while, and even the audience will eventually get tired of seeing GEN 6:14 everywhere.

In the end, Evan Almighty is never able to rise above what is essentially a flood of bland mediocrity. I’ve seen a few Christian pastors who said they recommended this film for their churches, but for the life of me I have no idea why. Sure, it’s good, clean family fun, but does that mean it has to be so lame?

With Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, director Tim Story attempts to step up the story a few notches by actually providing a real threat that our heroes have to thwart. This film is clearly light years ahead of its predecessor, which really isn’t saying that much. The original Fantastic Four was just plain boring. Where the battle scene of the climax of that film was an exercise in the senseless, Rise of the Silver Surfer has the fate of the planet hanging in the balance. Beware, this review contains some spoilers.

At less than 90 minutes, Surfer is short on time-time that could have been used for actually developing something better than the “Reed and Sue are getting married, so nothing else matters” subplot. Jessica Alba’s portrayal of Sue Storm is actually even more bland than before, which is quite an accomplishment.

To my delight, the Thing (Michael Chiklis) actually has a stable relationship in this fim. The Thing’s brooding in the last film over the most cardboard wife in film history was just tiresome. His girlfriend, Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington), is probably the strongest female role in the film, which doesn’t speak well for Sue, the girl who’s power is to make her invisible.

Of course, Story finds time to have Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) take off his shirt during the film since he knows that the girls and gay boys need something to keep them interested. Sadly, it was probably the brightest point of the film.

When the mysterious Silver Surfer comes in to dig monstrous holes into the earth, it spells certain doom. Even Doctor Doom (Julian McMahon) steps up to help, even if he always has a trick up his villainous sleeve. The Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne) gives a warning that “all you know is at an end.” Alas, the movie didn’t actually end until nearly an hour later.

His warning was that Galactus (SPOILER sorry, fanboys. It’s a big, cosmic tornado, not the big robitic guy in a purple and magenta outfit) was on its way to devour the earth. Since that’s obviously a bad thing, our heroes actually have to cancel their wedding plans. Poor Sue. The inevitable final wedding is reminiscent of the one seen in Spaceballs. All it lacked was the priest saying, “Good, you’re married! Kiss her!”

Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) can probably be awarded “the dullest hero ever” award, even though he can stretch himself like silly putty gone horribly wrong. It’s a pity that his acting ability has the flexibility of a steel rod encased in concrete.

Even still, Rise of the Silver Surfer is far better than its original. In the end, though, it’s just not all that fantastic. Perhaps if we changed the name of the film to “The Tepid Four, Arrival of that Naked Silver Dude,” we might have a little more truthful title.