Tim Story is not a very good director. Indeed, one could even classify him as a "bad" director, or even a "godawful" one. Nevertheless, Story—whose resume includes the Oscar-winning Jimmy Fallon/Queen Latifah team-up comedy Taxi—has, bewilderingly, managed to talk/bribe/blackmail 20th Century Fox into letting him helm both Fantastic Four movies. But I have to give props where props are due: With Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Story has accomplished a magnificent feat, one that I doubt the greatest cinematic minds could even think of equaling: Kurosawa couldn't have done this, nor could Welles, Hitchcock, Spielberg, or Kubrick. In Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Tim Story has accomplished something heretofore thought impossible: He's made Jessica Alba ugly.

And not just "she just woke up and hasn't put make-up on yet" ugly, either—here, she's a genuine uggo, looking less like her sultry self from Sin City and Into the Blue and more like a wax replica of herself on loan from Madame Tussaud's. Bleaching Alba's brunette hair to a tacky blonde and painting her once-tan skin a ghosty white, Story has turned Alba's character, Sue Storm, from an idyllic superheroine to something akin to a strung-out, anemic albino seeking out her next meth fix. It's a heinous crime not even the Fantastic Four's dread nemesis, Dr. Doom, would dream to attempt.

However, Doom plays a small role here, since much of this adventure—the Fantastic Four's second attempt at big screen spectacle—deals with the Silver Surfer, who is a... well, a silver dude who surfs. Coming from the far reaches of the galaxy to mark Earth for destruction, the Surfer's presence soon has each member of the Fantastic Four on guard: There's Alba's Sue Storm/Invisible Woman (her other superpower is whining!), Ioan Gruffudd's stretchy-limbed nerd Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Chris Evans' wiseass Human Torch, and that one cop dude from The Commish and The Shield buried beneath a bunch of orange rubber as The Thing.

Story's first Fantastic Four aimed for a lighter, goofier tone than X-Men or Spider-Man or Batman Begins. In some ways, Story succeeded (it is a nice change to have superheroes who aren't super-grumpy), but in most, he failed—the first Fantastic Four boasted the intelligence and feel of a crummy sitcom, and Rise of the Silver Surfer fares only marginally better. The sequel's scarce improvements are largely due to the Silver Surfer, whose inclusion is more than welcome: As the metallic, CG Surfer flies over Earth marking spots for destruction, there's a fluidity and grace to his character that's only improved when he begins talking like Morpheus, thanks to the voice of Laurence Fishburne. Unlike the janky special effects that happen every time Mr. Fantastic stretches his rubbery arms, the Surfer's a great mix of newfangled CG and classic comic book design. (Or, you know, he is—until, falling prey to that great supervillain "Budgetary Concerns," he ceases being CG about halfway through the film, turning instead into an actor covered in dull gray paint.)

The ridiculously eeeeevil Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon) comes in here at some point, too, as do various antics involving Reed and Sue's wedding and an ass-load of product placement. (The Fantastic Four's "Fantasticar" is made by Dodge, apparently, while The Thing's favorite beer is Dos Equis.) And then there's the guy who the Silver Surfer works for: Galactus, a "devourer of worlds" who wants to eat Earth. In the comic books, Galactus is a goofy-looking giant in a pink and purple costume. Oddly, he's more threatening there than he is here, since Story's chosen to represent Galactus as a giant storm cloud. (You just have to trust the characters when they say it's the end of the world, since the apocalypse apparently looks like a spring rain shower.)

Maybe I'm being too hard on the Fantastic Four. Sure, it treats its audience like they're idiots ("Egypt," a helpful placard reads when we see a shot of the pyramids), but there is a genuine good-hearted spirit to the film, and a childish goofiness that's present in old-school comics, yet goes largely ignored in most cinematic adaptations. Plus, Chris Evans' Human Torch is genuinely funny. But still: It's more boring than fun, and in trying to provide a kid-friendly alternative to the broody angst of the likes of Batman Begins, Tim Story's just ended up making a cheap-looking, gimmicky, and rickety movie. Even worse, he's made Jessica Alba ugly.