Heading into Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, my expectations were pretty low. The original was slow, dull and gimmicky, with too much set-up and not enough punch. That said, I'm about to make a very bold statement -- not only is this film far superior to its predecessor, but it's also one of the best sequels this summer has to offer. Granted, that's not saying a whole lot, but when it comes to entertaining a mass audience -- delivering equal parts quirk and fast-paced action -- Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer serves up fun on a, well, silver platter. Unlike other recent comic adaptations content on force-feeding you bland melodrama to a point where the entire theater begins to reek like cheese, Silver Surfer never takes itself seriously. It's PG-rated summer popcorn fluff at its best, and while the new additions might irritate the hardcore FF fanatics, those simply looking for a check-your-brain-at-the-door night out at the movies will certainly surf away satisfied.

It's hard enough focusing all the attention around one superhero, and four makes the task even tougher. Director Tim Story took a real chance with this sequel; although fans would've loved a darker, more sinister tone, he went in a completely different direction -- opting to instead tap into the old school, feel-good vibes of the original Superman films (parts 1 and 2), while utilizing a bigger budget to really make this thing sail. However, not all the effects hit their mark (specifically Mr. Fantastic's stretch technique, which looked completely silly and over-the-top in more than a few scenes), but the work done on the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne) more than made up for the minor faults in our main characters. In fact, the worst part of FF2 was the actual "all-media" screening -- chock-full of of delinquents who wouldn't stop talking the entire time. Not at the screen, mind you, but at each other. And I sat next to a homeless guy. Seriously. So if I can walk away from that experience and still enjoy this film more than any sequel/adaptation/threequel/you name it this summer, that's saying a lot for what the FF gang offered up for this, their second time around the block.