A star-spangled superhero from the Norman Rockwell era, Captain America might seem ill-prepared to do battle at the modern box-office. In "Captain America: The First Avenger," he doesn't have Batman's cool cynicism, Thor's grunge-rock appeal or Iron Man's postmodern snark.
But never underestimate the power of old-fashioned corn. An unabashed underdog story, "Captain America: The First Avenger" is a rousing, romantic crowd pleaser with a classic Hollywood feel, and not just because it's set in World War II. This is a movie, and a superhero, with heart.
The nearly unknown Chris Evans stars as Steve Rogers, a Brooklyn kid repeatedly rejected by the Army for his drinking-straw physique (created through some impressive digital magic). But Dr. Erskine, played by an endearing Stanley Tucci, likes Steve's pluck and picks him for a secret "super-soldier" experiment. After a serum injection in a delightfully Frankensteinian lab, Rogers becomes taller, broader-chested and alluringly sweaty. British officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is happy to towel him down.
Rogers' doppelganger is Schmidt, aka Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who took the same serum. "Good becomes great; bad becomes worse," Erskine explains. Schmidt, who leads a Nazi sub-cult called Hydra, isn't terribly complex -- movie Nazis rarely are -- but he gives Rogers a reason to flex his new muscles.
Director Joe Johnston (1991's "The Rocketeer") fills this handsome-looking movie with nice details: a beat-up shield, a rugged jumpsuit and, thankfully, no tights. Despite the vague plot (world domination and all that), "Captain America" is enlivened by smart dialogue, engaging characters (Tommy Lee Jones plays a lovably cantankerous colonel) and Evans himself. What makes him so convincing? As with Christophe Reeve's Superman, you somehow just know he's the good guy. That's a quality that never goes out of fashion.
PLOT The story of a skinny kid who becomes the country's savior. RATING PG-13 (violence, gruesome imagery)
PLAYING AT Area theaters, some in 3-D
BOTTOM LINE A genuine crowd pleaser, rousing, romantic and big-hearted.
Back story: Evans ready for call of fame
Chris Evans understands he may have to give up some privacy in exchange for the fame he is likely to encounter as the star of "Captain America: The First Avenger."
"I've been making movies for 10 years, but I can still go to a ballgame, I can still live my life with relative ease and anonymity," the Boston native says. "This movie potentially could change that, and that's scary."
The trade-off weighed heavily on Evans' mind before he agreed to play the iconic Marvel superhero. But the 30-year-old decided the creative rewards of working with director Joe Johnston (whose credits include the 1991 superhero adventure "The Rocketeer") were worth the cost.
Evans plays Steve Rogers, a scrawny teenager who desires nothing more than to serve his country in the U.S. Army in World War II.
The actor says he likes his character's earnestness and integrity.
"I don't think he would let his new physical form change who he is," he says of his character. "He is who he is, and that's what makes him worthy of this gift. He appreciates everything he didn't have before, and he's OK with it." Though Evans is 6 feet tall and weighs roughly 170 pounds, he recalls being a late bloomer.
"I weighed 135 pounds until I was at least 17," he says. "I know what it's like to be small."
-- Entertainment News Wire