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Everyone knows the back-arching twists that Peter Parker uses when swinging skyscraper to skyscraper across New York City. But never have you seen your friendly neighborhood web slinger face story twists like those in the irresistibly entertaining "Spider-Man: Homecoming." The newest star system in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is packed with surprises, excitement and quick-witted laughs.
Spidey's return in a story of his own is great right out of the gate. The film is sharply focused on creating fresh ways to frame its very familiar material and build solid connections to modern culture. The template of choice is a character-rich teen comedy, with splashes of head-spinning action. Having just turned 15 (Holland is 21, but passes), Peter is a good kid and a science whiz and is secretly super-strong. He's just not a superhero. Yet.
Like "Ant Man" before it, this is light, small-scale, blue-collar Marvel, where ripping off ATMs is high crime. And it works.
And then we get the biggest third-act surprise in many a year. It's uncommon for a film to startle me so much that I feel like I was clobbered in the head with a polo mallet, but this one got me for real.
There are a thousand razor-sharp gags, and not many give you the sense you've heard the joke before.
There's wonderful character work among Peter's high school classmates. Tony Revolori from "The Grand Budapest Hotel," the perfectly cast actress/activist Zendaya and newcomer Jacob Batalon turn their light supporting roles blissfully funny. And Tony Stark's sarcasm goes on hold for several moments of genuine tough-love mentoring to Peter.
It's not a breach of spoiler protocol to say what a movie doesn't do, especially when it brushes off superfluous concepts.
We don't see a spider bite or any sort of origin story folderol. There's no mention of the boy's beloved Uncle Ben. (We don't need a back story on Aunt May, because when Marisa Tomei plays a character, it's always clear who she is and what she's about.) There's no encounter with blowhard newspaper tycoon J. Jonah Jameson. The classic Spider-Man theme is part of the score for only a muted moment. We don't even see Spidey whoosh his way across Manhattan.
The slam-bam overkill that has turned the Warner Bros. DC franchise into orgies of excess is held in check. Nothing is pushed to overdose, not even the mandatory disaster set pieces. Most of the climactic action takes place around Coney Island, not in demolishing the Ferris wheel and other rides, but as a mano-a-mano slugfest on the beach.
This is the work of a creative team that knows smart is more important than loud, and enough is far better than extra. This movie uses very good ingredients and uses them just right.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.