IT'S NOT DIFFICULT to see why The Uncanny X-Men has been the best-selling comic book for, like, ever. With a primary audience consisting of teens and the socially handicapped, the Marvel four-color soap opera about mutant heroes who are shunned by society was just as much about the reader's adolescent foibles as it was about superbeings with flashy costumes.

I must confess to reading the book for many years myself, identifying with Wolverine's interior struggles and indulging my Prince Charming fantasies through Rogue's inability to touch other people skin-to-skin. But, having given up those comics years ago, the X-Men film wasn't really something I've been anticipating. If I wanted to see my high school angst on the big screen, I'd be angling for Leonardo DiCaprio in Catcher In The Rye, soundtrack by Morrissey (and if anyone takes this horrible idea and runs with it, I expect a development check and executive producer credit, thanks).

That said, were I still an active participant in the X-Family, I'd probably soil myself with delight. Most of the main characters are dead-on. Cyclops (James Marsden) is a total prig, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is badass, and it's obvious why they'd gut each other just to kiss the lovely Jean Gray (Famke Janssen). The villains also work very well. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos barely says a word as the blue-gooed Mystique, but the evil in each sinister, slinky move says enough. Only Halle Berry screws the pooch, coming off as way too frail to play the African goddess, Storm.

Beyond that, the action is thrilling, the effects stunning, and the story generally satisfying. In short, it's just what comic-book fans want from a comic-book film.

The big question, then, is if X-Men delivers for those who couldn't care less about the X-Men. It has everything a big-budget summer film should have--which is pretty much the same stuff the comics geeks are seeking. To be honest, though, I found myself vaguely bored through a lot of X-Men. It lacked zing, and--in this competitive effects market--that special X-factor that would make it stand out from the pack. Still, on a hot summer day, it's hard not to want to be a teenager again or to resist the high-stakes thrill of a battle for the fate of humanity--and for those reasons alone, X-Men is the evolutionary leader of the summer pack.