Thursday, July 21, 2011

just The Right Amount of "Rah-Rah": Captain America


You could consider this plucky little superhero story Hollywood's "Plan With A Man", the man in this case being Chris Evans, who's done the superhero bit before, in "fantastic Four."

The plan? Put a few A and B- lusters (Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Hugo Weaving, Derek Luke) with some relative unknowns and obscures and let director Joe Johnston(The Rocketeer) polish them up with his usual can-do spirit and good-natured wit.

For the most part, it works. While there is certainly the usual raft of explosions, gunfights and visual efx, this is one superhero that gets by essentially on his own wits and - admittedly juiced-up - power. There's also, in the typical Johnston style, some gentle yet effective satire. Right after he first discovers his new altered body, our hero becomes a Gov't pawn for the war effort, doing hokey road shows touting war bonds, in which he knocks an even more caricatured Hitler. The sequence ends when "Capo's" schtick falls flat before a troop of real GIs in Italy.

But fear not, the action (slow, we admit) jumps back into the comic book realm. The enemy here is not even the Nazis, but a megalomaniac called Red Skull who's harnessed new weapons technology that can vaporize mere mortals, along with an android (not the phone) army of his own, all of which he is ready to unleash on an unsuspecting world ( Germany included) unless...

Well, you know the rest. Evans is no Christian Bale (who will again have his turn as the Caped Crusader next summer), but he's commanding enough and he has just the right mix of awe and assurance to make the character likeable. Indeed, striking the right tone is the core of the movie's charm. Yes, there's "rah-rah" Americana, but it never overwhelms the story (thin though it may be), nor the viewer.

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