Review in a Hurry:  A slight but enjoyable bit of sci-fi popcorn that's mostly Marvelous just for being watchable, considering it's the sequel to one of the more irritating films of the 21st century.

The Bigger Picture:  Lowered expectations may have been the most genius thing about the first Fantastic Four, which nobody particularly liked and still somehow took in more than $300 million worldwide. The sequel is a better film in almost every respect, pitting the four irradiated superheroes against an extraterrestrial threat with untold power and the voice of Laurence Fishburne.

Having dispensed with the hokey origin story, Rise of the Silver Surfer breezes along on slick effects, bright colors, and a truncated end-of-the-world storyline that, for all its improbability, far surpasses the ludicrous, insulting melodrama of its predecessor.

The banter between the Four is much less forced this time out, and their superpowers less silly, though you'd think a nine-figure budget could have at least bought Jessica Alba some mime lessons.

What really makes it all work is a certain shamelessness, something that was missing from the tentative, strained original. This time around, nobody seems worried that the audience won't buy what the cast is selling, and the effects and actors seem to be in harmony rather than struggling with one another. Which goes to show you: When you're adapting a comic book, it helps to have everybody on the same page.

The 180—a Second Opinion:  The climactic moments of the movie are a major letdown considering how smoothly things have run so far, so much so that you might be better off closing your eyes and creating your own mental picture to swap for the onscreen action. And has comic-book-adaptation technology progressed so little that having the actors look constipated is still the best way to give them that "I'm using my powers" look?

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