(director/writer: Jon Watts; screenwriters: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers; cinematographer: Salvatore Totino; editor: Dan Lebental, Debbie Berman; music: Michael Giacchino; cast: Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider Man), Michael Keaton(Adrian Toomes/Vulture), Marisa Tomei (May Parker), Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Jacob Batalon (Ned), Laura Harrier(Liz), Zendaya (Michelle), Jenifer Connelly (Karen/suit lady-voice), Tony Revolori (Flash), Michael Chernus (Mason/Tinkerer), Bokine Woodbine (Herman Schultz/Shocker#2), Logan Marshall-Green (Jackson Brice /Shocker#2) Martin Starr (Mr. Harrington, decathlon teacher), Hannibal Buress (Coach Wilson), Donald Glover (Aaron Davis), Tyne Daly (Anne Marie Hoag); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal; Columbia Pictures; 2017)

The film sparkles best in its small scenes built around normal high school life.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jon Watts (“Cop Car”) directs this Marvel Comic superhero franchise film as a charming coming-of-age teen drama. It’s written by a team of writers that include the director, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. The writers tell it as a messy superhero-in-training flick for a determined youngster anxious to succeed as a spandex-adorned crime fighter so he will no longer be a working-class nobody.

The squeaky voiced Tom Holland is the 21-year-old Brit actor who fluently plays the 15-year-old Peter Parker, the American kid once bitten by a spider who turns into the Spider- Man character with special powers while still a kid. The brilliant student but socially awkward high school sophomore in Queens, NY, lives with his feisty Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Peter has recently returned from a weekend internship at Tony “Iron Man” Stark’s high-tech industrial powerhouse workshop for Avengers and pines to be one. At home Peter pals around with the dorky techie genius fellow student Ned (Jacob Batalon), and gushes for the brainy racially mixed senior Liz (Laura Harrier). In the meantime, fanboy Ned freaks out when by accident he finds out Peter is the Spider-Man character who fights crime for the little guy in the neighborhood. During this time Peter is being secretly mentored from afar by the Iron Man, the smug billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), someone who thinks that maybe in the future the kid could develop into an Avenger. On his own, the kid must deal with a ruthless arms dealer, Adrian Toomes, known as the Vulture (Michael Keaton). He’s the embittered working-stiff salvage contractor who lost his contract to the federal government after an alien attack and has since become the resentful greedy capitalist pig who sells reconfigured powerful high-tech alien weapons he stole to dangerous street criminals on the black market. The Vulture’s willing to destroy such things as the Washington Monument, the Staten Island Ferry, and, of course, anything else in the world. It’s up to Spider-Man (or, I should say Spider-Boy) to stop the villain and his gang, while coping with growing pains, girl trouble and of learning how to be a web-slinger. The acrobatic Holland does most of his own stunts, and carries the comic book film with his appealing teenage vulnerabilities fully exposed, convincingly coming across as a teenager.

The film sparkles best in its small scenes built around normal high school life, while its big-budget action set pieces in CGI didn’t do much for me. Other memorable characters include Jon Favreau as the nervous chauffeur Stark lends to the kid, Zendaya as a snarky loner member of the school’s brainy academic decathlon team and Martin Starr as the droll-humored decathlon teacher.

REVIEWED ON 7/7/2017 GRADE: B-   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/