That Peter Parker, he sure does like being Spider-Man.
Check that. He loves being Spider-Man. Loves, loves, loves it.
And from the evidence of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Tom Holland loves, loves, loves playing the web slinger.
Movie Review ★★★½ ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming,’ with Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Michael Keaton. Directed by Jon Watts, from a screenplay by Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chris McKenna, Christopher Ford and Erik Sommers. 133 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments. Opens July 7 at several theaters.
This third time’s the charm in Marvel’s pantheon of Spider-Man portrayers. Tobey Maguire was pretty good, Andrew Garfield was so-so, but Holland … Well, when you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
Holland has it.
That was instantly apparent the moment he showed up toward the end of “Captain America: Civil War” and blew the likes of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans right out of the water with the sheer exuberance of his performance in his brief time on screen.
That boundless ebullience is the animating force in “Homecoming,” exemplified by scenes showing him “woo-hooing!” through the canyons of Manhattan, webs whizzing this way and that. That spirit makes the picture a high point in the summer-movie season so far.
Director Jon Watts and a platoon of credited screenwriters have given us a Spidey who’s a geeky high-schooler new to this superhero business and in awe of the company he keeps (or would like to: “Hey, Tony Stark” — paraphrasing here — “I’m a big fan”). He’s in awe, too, of his superpowers. Of which, at the start, he’s barely able to control.
With great power comes a great many opportunities to mess up.
Battling a baddie in a rocket-propelled weaponized bird suit (operated by none other than “Birdman’s” Michael Keaton himself; typecasting?), he occasionally needs to be bailed out and later scolded by Iron Man for trying to do too much, too soon.
He is, after all, learning the ropes in a so-called Stark Industries “internship” and is ticked to discover that his use of the way-cool features of his super-duper Spider suit is restricted by a “training-wheels protocol” installed by Stark.
“I’m sick of Mr. Stark treating me like a kid,” he says, bouncing with frustration on his bed at home. “But you are a kid,” his best buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) helpfully reminds him.
Batalon is a fine comic foil for Holland. Ned, a superhero fanboy as obsessive as Peter, is stunned to discover his classmate is Spider-Man — “You were on the ceiling!” — but is constantly reminding him that, hey, he’s got classes to attend and a pretty girl to woo.
The special-effects sequences are up to the usual high standards of Marvel excellence, but by far the best elements of “Homecoming” are the writing, which brims with humor, and the performances. In addition to Holland and Batalon, Downey Jr. is his usual sardonic self as Stark, dry and wry and a nice steadying counterpoint to Holland’s effusiveness. Fine, too, is Marisa Tomei in a sexy portrayal of Peter’s Aunt May. (Stark thinks she’s hot.) She’s been given the funniest line in the picture. Coming at the very end, that line sends “Homecoming” off on a sky-high note as it brings down the house.
Soren Andersen: firstname.lastname@example.org