Movie Review: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (PG-13)

4 starsMovie Review: "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (PG-13)Marvel gets “Spider-Man” back on track with “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a breezy, joyful, smile-inducing movie that owes just as much to the likes of John Hughes as it does to the world of legendary superheros. It’s crazy to think that Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” is only 15 years old, and here we are with yet another reboot (this one coming on the heels of Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”). The good news is that not only is “Homecoming” a winner, it’s easily the most engaging big-screen Spidey adventure since Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2.”

With eager and earnest Peter Parker (Tom Holland) anxiously awaiting a new mission following a small taste of success stemming from his web-slinging, ass-kicking role in “Captain America: Civil War,” “Homecoming” sort of plays like “Peter Parker’s Day Off.” Sadly for Peter, though, a new mission hasn’t materialized. Tony Stark’s right-hand man, Happy (played by Jon Favreau), has far too much on his plate to give Parker much notice while Stark himself is busy re-building Stark Tower.  So Peter is ultimately left to take on smaller challenges in his home town all while navigating through that tricky thing that is high school life.

Of course, a hefty challenge is on the horizon after former working-class builder Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) evolves into a bitter mob-boss-type with aspirations of making a bigger name for himself. With no one to turn to for help and hefty aspirations of his own, young Peter Parker decides to take on Toomes’ alter ego, Vulture, himself. Along the way, he learns valuable lessons about the superhero code and what it means to be a man.

Movie Review: "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (PG-13)Director Jon Watts and his writing team wisely skip the origin story with this incarnation of “Spider-Man” and opt to give us an already-established Spidey instead. A large portion of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” finds Parker in a domesticated high school setting, but this isn’t an angsty teen backdrop. Parker, his likable buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon), and the intelligent classmates they hang out with could be perceived as outcasts of sorts, but they don’t necessarily let that title get to them. In fact, they are all incredibly comfortable in their own skin, and this makes the proceedings all the more appealing. Amidst all the crime fighting, Peter even finds time for a high school crush in the form of smart and pretty Liz (Laura Harrier).

Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield both offered up their strengths as Spider-Man, but Holland owns this role. He’s enthusiastic, he’s endearing, and he’s fittingly smart-alecy (he’s a bit like “Deadpool” minus the curse words) in all the right ways, but he also brings the physicality, quick wit, and charm that most of us expect from this iconic character. In many ways, Holland brings the same infectiously likable personality to Spidey that Michael J. Fox brought to Marty McFly in “Back to the Future,” and that is the highest form of praise. Having said that, this Peter Parker is prone to making mistakes. But he is a teenager, after all, and at the end of the day, it’s all about how he learns from those mistakes.

Michael Keaton is an absolute blast in this picture! The very idea of seeing the actor who headlined Tim Burton’s “Batman” play villain to Holland’s webslinger is a pure joy on an epic scale. While we don’t really get to see Adrian Toomes’ actual transformation from common working man to criminal mastermind Vulture, Keaton is so good in the role that this hardly hurts the overall film. He’s dangerous and menacing, to be sure (at times, he even appears to be channeling Jack Nicholson’s Joker), but he’s also relatable as a hard worker seemingly kicked to the side by men of power.

Robert Downey Jr. is back as Tony Stark and Iron Man, and he’s on hand to serve as a father figure to a sometimes overly excitable Peter Parker. At this point, the role of Stark fits Downey Jr. like a glove. He continues to be the lovable, sarcastic, narcissistic character we all first fell in love with back in 2008, but he’s also considerably wiser with each passing Marvel film appearance.

Rounding out a wonderful supporting cast are Batalon, Harrier, and Zendaya as Peter’s classmates, Favreau as hapless Happy, the forever dependable Donald Glover as a henchman with a conscience, and a positively adorable Marisa Tomei as Peter’s loving Aunt May.

Watts, who before landing this project only had two other feature directorial efforts under his belt (the underrated horror show “Clown” and the overrated Kevin Bacon-headlined “Cop Car”), delivers his strongest showing as a director to date. He and his filmmaking team take some liberties with the source material, but they are most creative and most welcome of liberties. There are a couple of big surprises in this picture too, particularly in the final act, but don’t worry … no spoilers here.

What’s more, Watts actually lowers the stakes. End of the world-level destruction is for The Avengers to tend to. “Spider-Man” is more about looking out for the little guy, and that in of itself is refreshing.

And while the smaller character beats and high school stuff are most worth noting in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” this wouldn’t be a superhero flick without the massive set pieces, and this movie has a few of them to speak of. One is by sea and one is by air, but the most exciting sequence in “Homecoming” involves the Washington Monument. It’s quite the thrill!

Stick around for the end credits. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” offers up a pair of worthwhile stingers. The second of the two might just be the greatest stinger Marvel has ever produced. At the very least, it’s further proof that patience is a virtue.

“Homecoming” doesn’t exactly re-invent the superhero wheel. There are faults to be found here and there. There’s the obligatory Marvel movie tie-ins.  Furthermore, a background clip from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” feels a trifle unnecessary, most notably to those who are already well aware what this movie is lovingly winking at. And once again, a more substantial arc for Adrian Toomes would have been nice.

Having said all of that, with “Homecoming,” fun is the name of the game, and honestly, there were very few moments throughout this immensely entertaining picture when I wasn’t smiling. Holland is the perfect Spider-Man, and if his future adventures are even half as joyful as this one, Spidey fans are in for a real treat.

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