Picks and Pans Review: Superman Returns

updated 07/03/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/03/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Parker Posey

The old-time phone booths Superman used to change in may have disappeared in the nearly two decades since he was last onscreen, but the Man of Steel has lost none of his power. In fact, he roars back in Superman Returns—the first big film this summer to live up to its hype, even if, at 154 minutes, it's too long.

Director Bryan Singer (the first two X-Men movies) pays artful homage to the mythology of the comic book hero while cheekily tweaking it. Returns begins with Superman (Routh) coming back to Earth after a five-year absence. The world, and more specifically longtime sweetie Lois Lane (Bosworth), has moved on. Can Superman (and his shy alter ego Clark Kent) win back Lane and thwart yet another of nemesis Lex Luthor's schemes?

Returns boasts a smart script, swell acting, killer special effects—Superman's flying is swoon-worthy—and plenty of heart. Routh, who is matinee-idol handsome, wins you over as soon he puts on his cape. Can he play anything else? Who knows. But like his predecessor Christopher Reeve (whom he eerily resembles, especially as Clark Kent), he is solid as steel as Superman. (PG-13)
[STARS 3.5]

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