Spidey’s Homecoming A Funny Throwback to 80’s Teen Films

3.5 out of 5 stars (Above Average)

Spider-Man Homecoming poster
Image from http://marvel.wikia.com

Note: Upon rewatching the film in preparation for Spider-Man: Far From Home, I realized that I was somewhat wrong here.  This is a bit subtler than previous Spidey outings, and I went into this annoyed about another reboot of the character.  Now, 2 years later, I can happily say that I would give this film 4 out of 5 stars (one of the best of the year) for mixing comedy, drama, and action better than the previous incarnations.  Enjoy my review below.

I am getting tired of reboots.  Though some have been successful (The current Planet of the Apes franchise is consistently entertaining), many reboots serve only as ways for studios to make easy money off of a well-known property, with little regard for the quality of said film as long as it gets solid returns.  However, Spider-Man Homecoming is not another run-of-the-mill superhero tale, but in fact a teen comedy/coming-of-age story about Peter Parker learning how to balance his duties as Spider-Man with being a legitimate teenager, something that none of the other movies really explored.  While I will always love Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy, Spider-Man Homecoming is a fresh spin on the character that differentiates itself with humor, some good twists, and a hero who truly enjoys what he does rather than complaining about it.

After fighting alongside Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Civil War, Peter Parker (played by newcomer Tom Holland) is having a bit of trouble balancing life as Spider-Man with the mundanity of high-school, with Tony telling him to lay low and wait for the Avengers to call him.  Like any teen in this situation, Peter doesn’t take to that well, believing himself ready to play with the big boys.  I would tell him those big boys graduated from high school before they became full-time heroes, but I would probably do the same thing if it were me.

Peter gets his chance for some action when the vengeful Adrian Toombs (Michael Keaton giving a dedicated performance) starts using alien technology for nefarious purposes.  Now Peter, along with his comic relief best friend (Jacob Batalon) who discovered his identity, must try and stop Toombs before it’s too late.  And also, the homecoming dance is coming up, and Peter must work up the courage to ask Liz Allen (Laura Harrier) out.  Oh the joys of superherodom.

This film excels as a teen comedy, containing witty dialogue and a purposefully light tone, but is completely underwhelming as an action film.  Batalon and Holland are believable as best friends and Marisa Tomei (though criminally underused) does well with what she is given.  This is the closest thing to a John Hughes film I’ve seen in ages, and that approach was surprisingly perfect for this interpretation of the character.  Peter Parker has never felt more real, and I can only hope that feeling continues throughout his other solo adventures.

The action feels reminiscent of scenes from the other movies, or comes off as overly cartoonish (the latter being especially true of the film’s climax). It’s as if the screenwriters worked so hard on the teen stuff that they had to put the action in at the last minute.  Director Jon Watts (known for horror film Clown and gritty crime drama Cop Car) seems unsure of himself in those sequences, always shooting too close for us to really see Spidey in action.  Hopefully the sequel will improve on this aspect.

Despite the action deficiency, I laughed consistently at the jokes, though some were crude and/or sophomoric (the film was written by the same guys behind that over-raunched Vacation remake no one wanted). Michael Keaton’s performance is simultaneously menacing and sympathetic, even when he is dressed in an overly ridiculous outfit for the climax.  Lastly, the music choices were mostly solid, leading me to tap my feet at a few points.

Spider-Man Homecoming is a funny teen comedy that, despite lackluster action, provides consistent humor and endearing central performances.  Michael Keaton makes a surprisingly complex character, the toe-tapping soundtrack is enjoyable, and this version of Peter Parker is fresh, but the underwhelming action really took down what could have been one of the best films in this series and made it just a funny comedy.  It’s a good film, but it could have been better.

Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Action Violence, Language, and Some Suggestive Comments , (Someone remarks about watching porn at one point??????)

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