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Movie review: 'Captain America' -- 4 stars

Captain America (Chris Evans) stands in front of

Captain America (Chris Evans) stands in front of Hydra agents. Photo Credit: Handout

Captain America: The First Avenger

Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci
Rated PG-13

4 stars

Let's hear it for the little guy!

The latest MarveI Comics adaptation is set in 1941, when tiny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a scrapper from Brooklyn, has been trying to enlist to fight in WWII. He's been rejected numerous times, unlike his buddy "Bucky" Barnes, who is shipping off to Europe.

Through some movie-making magic, Evans' visage sits upon the body of a slight, tiny guy. We've seen this visual effect before to little success (I'm looking at you, "Tron: Legacy"), but here it works.

Rogers is undersized, but he's a good man who hates bullies and never gives up. That makes him a perfect candidate for a super-soldier experiment run by the military's Dr. Abraham Erkstine (Stanley Tucci).

The proverbial 98-pound-weakling gets pumped up with drugs and vita-rays, resulting in the full-on Charles Atlas effect. Rogers emerges from a metal cocoon as the hulking, hunky hero.

After a run as a U.S. propaganda tool, Cap's with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility moment comes when he finds out that Bucky and a slew of other troops were trapped behind enemy lines and are thought to be dead. Rogers turns into the ultimate soldier and comes up against his new nemesis, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a former Nazi super soldier and head of the world-conquering group, Hydra.

Director Joe Johnston - who cut his teeth doing effects for the "Indiana Jones" and "Star Wars" franchises before directing such films as "The Rocketeer" and "Jurassic Park III" - was a perfect choice for this film. He keeps things fun and light most of the time, and amps things up when the action hits the battlefield.

And you can't have Captain America without his shield. It's used to wonderful effect during the fight scenes and is definitely a crowd pleaser.

As with "Iron Man" and "Thor," Marvel has managed to cast this film perfectly. Chris Evans, with his great blend of naivety and toughness, shines as the overgrown Boy Scout. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent as well, starting with Tucci.

As Marvel builds toward its "Avengers" movie next year, arguably the most essential cog in that machine is Captain America, and he's a real American dream.

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