Chris Evans fights for a precocious math whiz in ‘Gifted’

Good girl hunting: Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace in “Gifted.”

Two and a half stars

Gifted Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan. Directed by Marc Webb. Rated PG-13. Now playing citywide.

Chris Evans isn’t playing Captain America in Gifted, but his character is such an upstanding straight arrow that he might give Captain America a little competition. Evans’ Frank Adler is a hunky, muscular boat mechanic who’s also a former university-level philosophy professor and an involved parent to his niece, Mary (Mckenna Grace), whom he’s raised since Mary’s mother (Frank’s sister) committed suicide when Mary was a baby. He’s beloved by his neighbors and sensitive to the needs of his would-be girlfriend (Jenny Slate), who also happens to be Mary’s teacher.

But when Mary’s school discovers that she’s a certified math genius at seven years old, Frank must face off against his rich, snooty mother (Lindsay Duncan), who wants to take Mary away from her earthy, working-class existence and cloister her in a world of tutors and classrooms and No Fun Allowed. Will Captain America be able to defeat this latest evil menace and save the little girl?

Of course he will, and nothing in Gifted ever puts that in doubt. Evans is handsome and charming, Grace is precocious (sometimes annoyingly so) and cute, and the courtroom scenes are full of earnest grandstanding. Years ago, director Marc Webb upended clichés with the unconventional rom-com (500) Days of Summer. Here, his pedestrian direction and bland visual style just affirm the predictable and obvious. The hero triumphs, but the victory is hollow.

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