Captain America actor Chris Evans puts down is red, white and blue shield to take on a more simple role in the new movie Gifted. The film stars Evans as a blue-collar Frank that has been given the task of caring for his niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) after her mother died. Mary and Frank have a nice relationship, but Mary is different from the other children her age. Mary is a mathematical genius who can solve problems in her head that most people could only perform on a calculator. Many including her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) and grandmother (Lindsay Duncan) believe Mary should be in a special school to help expand her mind, but Frank doesn’t want his niece’s gifts exploited by others for their own personal gain.

The best way to describe Gifted would be the Anti-Manchester by the Sea experience. The film constantly tries to crack your emotional core with sad moments involving a kind-hearted handsome uncle and a smarty pants little girl trying to keep their family dynamic together no matter what others may think. While Manchester by the Sea held nothing back in terms of punching you in the gut emotionally, Gifted wants to give you the sweet moments as much as it wants to make you cry. This hurts Gifted, because the film can’t decide if it wants to be an edgy family drama about a guy trying to honor his dead sister’s wishes or a character study about a kid with an extraordinary mind that deserves examination. Gifted throws so many clichés at the audience in an attempt to distract them from how much of a mess this movie actually is in terms of plot direction and character development.

Gifted definitely feels like a Hallmark Hall of Fame made for TV movie that with an A-list cast. Chris Evans makes the most of his thinly written role bringing some heart to the story as he deals with trying to make the right choice for a little girl who just wants to be a kid. Octavia Spencer is totally wasted as the sweet and sassy neighbor who looks after Mary and Lindsay Duncan plays your typical wealthy estranged relative who believes she can provide a more suitable life for her granddaughter. You’ve seen these characters many times before in better films and their sole objective is to pull at the viewers’ heartstrings. Gifted is not a bad film if you don’t mind getting stuck in the forced sappiness, but by no means is the film special.

Overall, I give Gifted 2.25 out of 4 stars.

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