First, I’d like to say that The Final Destination provides a perfect platform for showing off the latest in 3D cinema magic. What better story format for this sort of demonstration than one whose major theme is that things will come flying out of nowhere to take your head (or torso) off? Watching this film with your polarizing glasses on, various forms of shrapnel really do appear to be hurtling in your direction, and you may well find yourself ducking. (Or at least flinching.)

Secondly, I’ve got to say that this is one stupid movie. The characters, all of whom will soon (i.e., within 82 minutes) be actually dead, start out brain dead at the very outset, judging from their demonstrated reasoning and conversational skills.

Rewind with me now to March of 2000 A.D., when Roger Ebert gave a generally positive (“thumbs-up”) review to the first movie in this “dead teenager” series, Final Destination (note absence of the “The,” thereby differentiating it from the present episode). This may have surprised some, but I — like he — found myself amused by the Rube Goldberg-ian creativity of the machinations put into place by the amorphous Death entity — machinations designed to creatively kill off the youthful, vibrant, attractive lead players, one by one. Ebert also predicted that the movie would be a hit, and that it would spawn a series of sequels.

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And so it has.

But Ebert also found Final Destination (Mk I) to be noticeably smart, featuring “earnest discussions of fate.” Which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be extended to apply to this (Mk IV) iteration. Director David R. Ellis (Snakes on a Plane) and scripter Eric Bress (Final D 2; The Butterfly Effect) seem more interested in mining the well-established (dare we say hackneyed?) formula elements than introducing anything new or thoughtful to the mix.

Our four protagonists, first seen sitting in the grandstands of the local racetrack as intimations of doom accumulate in the time/space continuum around them, are dense as Dunkin’® Donuts. Lori (Shantel VanSanten) and Nick (Bobby Campo) are to be the couple with whom we are meant to identify, as they’re shown to be sympathetic to minorities (ref. Mykelti Williamson as security guard George Lanter) and amused by the antics of kids (ref. the darling youngsters forced to plug their ears with tampons, provided by Krista Allen as sexy mom Samantha). Their companions, meanwhile (Nick Zano as glamour boy Hunt; Haley Webb as companion-of-glamour-boy Janet), prove less sympathetic — plus, the camera spends less time on them, so we know they’ll be the next-to-last to go.

As for the rest of these race car fanboys (and girls): bring on the flying engine parts, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

There’s a smirkingly clever sequence near the end of the movie which takes place in a theater auditorium, where – get this! – moviegoers wearing 3D glasses are about to discover just how real a disaster film can get. Brian Tyler provides the requisite hard-driving rock score, which fits well with the violent carnage playing out onscreen.

Not much more to say, really, other than:

1) keep away from chain link fences, and

2) stay out of Theater 13

3) … and off the mall escalators