PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The sixth Spider-Man movie with the third actor in the title role starts spinning its web.
But this time there’s no origin story to slow things down.
This movie moves.
Tom Holland (who played the role in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War) takes over as Spidey, the wall-climbing alter ego of Peter Parker, following three adventures with Tobey Maguire and two with Andrew Garfield that emerged from the Marvel comic-book universe.
Spider-Man: Homecoming brings us back in the company of this talented, young, aspiring scientist and acrobatic web-slinger in a reboot that takes the chance of seeming, well, unnecessary.
But this latest outing is in a more comedic vein as it explores the issues Peter Parker faces as a struggling teenager who just happens to be a high-flying superhero.
Oh, he’s still a bullied dweeb whose parents suddenly disappeared and who was bitten by a genetically modified, radioactive spider after which he evolved into a crime-fighting vigilante.
But he also struggles to balance his life as a superhero, patrolling Queens, New York, in his high-tech suit; with that of a 15-year-old, socially awkward high schooler: after all, that subtitle refers to the Homecoming Dance.
He lives at home with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and does battle with villains such as Vulture, a strong, begrudgingly sympathetic, bad guy and formidable foe played by the scene-stealing ex-Birdman, Michael Keaton, under the watchful eye of his mentor, Iron Man, played by Robert Downey, Jr.
Director Jon Watts (Cop Car, Clown), working from a charming coming-of-age script by a committee of half-a-dozen screenwriters, takes a sunnier, funnier approach to the material with the conventional difficulties of adolescence as his focus but with a bit less angst than usual.
And Holland’s readings of both central characters, the struggling sophomore and the webbed superhero, is on the money.
Meanwhile, the other members of the supporting ensemble, including Laura Harrier as Peter’s crush and Jacob Batalon as his buddy, as well as Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Donald Glover, Tony Revelori, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, and Hannibal Buress, get their chances to shine and demonstrate at least the hint of a character arc via spirited, witty banter.
And the film is generous with its twists and surprises and bonuses, even if they land with varying degrees of success.
So we’ll sling 3-1/2 stars out of 4. Nearly as much a teen flick as a superhero thriller, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a decidedly lighthearted take on a familiar character and perhaps the pick, or close to it, of the Spider-Man litter.