***½/**** Image A- Sound B+ Extras B
starring Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci
screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
directed by Joe Johnston
by Walter Chaw Given the opportunity to finally do the sequel to his The Rocketeer that I've sort of been hoping to see for the last twenty years, Joe Johnston comes through with flying colours. The absolutely, unapologetically cornpone Captain America: The First Avenger achieves exactly the right tone of Greatest Generation wartime propaganda without any winking post-modern irony to befoul the stew. It's an earnest, genuine underdog story about a wimpy kid, Steve (Chris Evans, digitally reduced), who's beaten up for defending the sanctity of the movie theatre before finally, on his sixth try, being accepted into the army under the kind auspices of mad scientist Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci). Erskine sees an essential goodness in Steve, a decency born from the Great War heroism of his long-gone parents, it's suggested (in high-Fifties style), while crusty Col. Philips (Tommy Lee Jones) is persuaded by this twerp's willingness to dive on a grenade to save a platoon made up of the type of men who spent their childhood tormenting guys like Steve. Asked if he wants to kill Nazis, Steve replies that he doesn't want to kill anyone--he simply hates bullies. Steve, see, is an idealist. And any film that paints America's bedrock idealism as heroic is not just the right kind of patriotic (the kind that doesn't demean other cultures) and the right shade of nostalgia (i.e., in love with the essential purity of the hope behind the foundation of our country)--it's more than okay by me, too.