REVIEW: Captain America Is All Beefcake and No Sizzle
As we near the end of a summer season stuffed to bursting with big, ambitious comic-book movies -- from the buffed, Wagnerian pecs of Thor to the pompous clutter of Green Lantern -- here comes Captain America: The First Avenger, limping behind the rest of the parade. The picture is almost admirably boring, as if director Joe Johnston (The Wolfman, The Rocketeer), had wanted to distinguish his movie by not packing it with action, or even bothering much to define the characters. It's a lopsided experiment that might have worked -- the movie takes so long to get going, you're fooled into thinking it might be going somewhere -- but Captain America just doesn't have the stuff. Like its lead character, it's 4F for sure and desperately hoping to hide it.
Chris Evans is scrawny, underfed Steve Rogers, a kid who's desperate to join the fight to kick Hitler's ass but who, with his narrow, rickety shoulders and asthmatic demeanor, is deemed unfit for service. After he tries to enlist for zillionth time, a mysterious scientist with an even more mysterious German accent, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), takes note of his zeal to serve his country. "So!" Erskine addresses his young protégé, "You vant to go overseese und kill some Natzeets!" Ignoring the blustery, jowl-wagging protestations of Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), Dr. Erskine has big plans for Steve. No longer will he be the little guy who gets sand kicked in his face in the Charles Atlas ads. He's going to be one of the Army's first supersoldiers.
As it turns out, he's also the last: Just as Dr. Erskine finishes the serum-injecting procedure that turns little Steve into big Steve, a vandal bursts into the laboratory and steals the vial of all-important stuff. It turns out there's a force afoot more deadly than Hitler and his minions, and Nazi turncoat Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) wants to use it to rule the world, or to do whatever it is those guys always want to do. Schmidt has formidable superpowers himself, after an early encounter with a glowing something-or-other, and even though he looks suspiciously like Hugo Weaving for the first two-thirds of the movie, later on he peels off his rubber face to reveal that he's really Red Skull, a villain with the nose of Michael Jackson, the cheekbones of Claudette Colbert, and the complexion of Hot Stuff.
Now that Steve has that Adonis bod, he can finally become Captain America. Well, not so fast. First he has to pay his dues by donning a not particularly dashing homemade Captain America costume -- complete with star-painted circular shield -- and trekking across the country, with a bevy of chorus girls in tow, as a walking advertisement for the armed forces. But when he learns that his best pal from home, enlisted man James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes, is in danger, he throws a dashingly weathered leather jacket over his silly costume, jumps on a motorcycle that he finds somewhere-or-other, and begins outrunning explosions and otherwise battling every airplane, motor vehicle and ruthless footsoldier Red Skull can put in his path.
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