Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace in Gifted (2017)
GIFTED (Marc Webb). 101 minutes. Opens Friday (April 7). See listing. Rating: NNN
Gifted is safe and polished and has scenes where people go to the beach. It’s the kind of movie an actor makes when he wants to show his sensitive side – or when a director wants to demonstrate his commercial sensibilities while still pretending he’s making a soulful indie.
There’s nothing wrong with either of these reasons. Movies are made for worse motives all the time, and if Chris Evans wants to show a little range than he can in the Captain America pictures and Marc Webb needs to prove he can make a hit after the debacle of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, well, Gifted is a good way to do it. Its story about a single parent forced to prove he’s the best person to raise a genius is reassuring in its familiarity and simple, unchallenging premise. It’s comfort food.
Evans plays Frank, the easygoing but intensely protective uncle of seven-year-old Mary (Mckenna Grace). When Mary starts school and is flagged as a genius, he’s determined to bring her up as an ordinary child, but his mother (Lindsay Duncan) swoops in to demand custody, opening old family wounds and setting up a courtroom drama straight out of, well, every other one of these movies.
Webb seems determined to deliver the most conventional crowd-pleaser possible – and mostly succeeds. He asks very little of his cast (which also includes Jenny Slate and Octavia Spencer doing their best to enliven stock roles) and even less of the audience, but Evans and Grace are incredibly appealing together, screenwriter Tom Flynn puts a nice spin on the courtroom scenes, and the whole thing chugs along at a decent clip.
Gifted exists to do a thing, and it does it pretty well. There are no surprises, but the audience I saw it with didn’t mind. Neither did I, to be honest. As comfort food goes, it’s just fine.