Strengths of 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' are its jaunty high school scenes

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

At times, “Homecoming,” which stars Tom Holland as the web-slinger, resembles a very good after-school special embedded in a cacophonous franchise flick.

Chuck Zlotnick/Columbia Pictures-Sony/AP
'Spider-Man: Homecoming' stars Tom Holland.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the first Spider-Man movie to entirely overlap the Marvel Comics universe. The reasons for this are corporate, not aesthetic (Columbia Pictures controlled previous “Spider-Man” movies), and I suppose this means that instead of having, say, 47 intersecting Marvel spinoffs, now we’ll have 326 stretching into the next millennium.

Tom Holland, reprising his appearance from “Captain America: Civil War,” plays Spider-Man, as, well, Spider-Boy. His engaging bumptiousness is a kicky change from Andrew Garfield’s more brooding incarnation. Peter Parker is very much the 15-year-old high school semi-nerd here, except for those after-class moments when he’s fighting crime. He has a crush on senior Liz (Laura Harrier) and ends up revealing his Spideyness to best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who is a sort of geek Sancho Panza to Peter’s high-flying Don Quixote.

The Avengers are represented mostly by Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, in a cameo, who isn’t quite ready to give Peter his full Avengers seal of approval. Chief baddie is Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, a salvage contractor-turned-superpowered arms dealer. His character is able to morph into the Vulture, outfitted with big metal wings that, inevitably, draw comparison to Keaton’s Birdman (but not his Batman).

Director Jon Watts and his five other screenwriters are better at the small stuff – the jaunty high school scenes – than the kapowie CGI battle sequences. At times, “Homecoming” resembles a very good after-school special embedded in a cacophonous franchise flick. That’s probably not the demographic the filmmakers were most hoping to please. Grade: B- (Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language, and brief suggestive comments.) 

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