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SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

The best way to enjoy Spider-Man: Far from Home is to embrace your inner 12-year-old. Once I did that, and realized that the tone of this movie is completely different from Avengers: Endgame, I had a good time with it. Tom Holland is thoroughly likable as Peter Parker, who’s more concerned with expressing his feelings for classmate MJ (the equally enjoyable Zendaya) than he is with saving the world. It’s easy to relate to this character and his identity crisis. Peter is a normal kid facing all the pressures and problems any high-schooler would; the only difference is that he’s been blessed (or cursed) with superpowers.

It may sound odd to describe a film filled with overpowering action scenes and a maniacal villain as lighthearted, but that’s the trick that director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers have pulled off, just as they did with the previous series entry, Spider-man: Homecoming. They’re comfortable with their characters and invite us to have fun with them, even while placing them in peril. They go so far as to gently mock Samuel L. Jackson’s super-serious Nick Fury and make him an element of comedy relief. They also make great use of Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, who’s as protective of Peter as he was when he worked for Tony Stark.

The bedrock of Far from Home is a teenage boy’s crush and the adventures he shares with his classmates on a field trip to Europe, chaperoned by two nervous teachers (Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove). Zendaya plays MJ as a savvy girl who likes Peter as much as he does her, but shares his hesitancy in solidifying their relationship. Incidentally (or not so incidentally) the cast of this film is a kind of rainbow coalition that ticks every racial and ethnic box without ever remarking on it, a typically canny Marvel move.

As you’d expect, the visual effects on display here are impressive–and at times overwhelming. They are tied to a storyline that is more complicated than it really needs to be, but that’s become another Marvel m.o. and fans don’t seem to mind. The bottom line is that Spider-man: Far From Home is entertaining and perfectly attuned to an adolescent audience, as well as the young-at-heart.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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