Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire, Rhys Ifans, Thomas Haden Church, Angourie Rice, Hannibal Buress, Roger Harrington, J. B. Smoove, J. K. Simmons, Charlie Cox, Paula Newsome, Arian Moayed, Tom Hardy, Cristo Fernández
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, based on characters created by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Directed by: Jon Watts
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action/violence, some language and brief suggestive comments
Running Time: 148
Date: 12/17/2021

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Web Rouser

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Spectacular as well as amazing, this Spider-Man has all the freshest ingredients for a top-notch superhero movie, including hilarity and heartstrings, action and anxiousness, and some happy surprises.

Things pick up moments after the end of Spider-Man: Far from Home, in which J. Jonah Jameson (J. K. Simmons) reveals Spider-Man's secret identity to the world. This upends the lives of Peter Parker (Tom Holland), M.J. (Zendaya), and Ned (Jacob Batalon), and even causes their applications to M.I.T. to be rejected.

Peter gets the idea to go to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and ask for a spell. There is one, but it will cause everyone to forget who Peter is, as if he'd never existed. While attempting to modify the spell to exclude his loved ones, things spin out of control. Before long, supervillains from alternate universes have descended upon Spider-Man's world, and his hands are full. He's going to need some help.

There's so much of Spider-Man: No Way Home to try and not give away, but, given that the three Holland movies all play on the word "home," the title holds some clues. At its core, the movie is about families, or little tribes that we make along the way, and it's about doing the right thing, and helping out. Peter makes a most unusual decision in the story, steering away from what might be the normal choice in a comic book story, and choosing something more unconventional, perhaps even un-cinematic, because it's the right thing to do.

Yet the filmmakers don't allow things to become preachy or self-righteous. There's plenty of time for some of the funniest bits of dialogue in any of the Marvel movies so far, as well as moments of undeniable warmth between characters that have become so soothingly familiar.

Unsurprisingly, Spider-Man: No Way Home is technically superb, with exhilarating FX sequences, expert cinematography, and a breathless music score. (It's still a little untidy here and there and can't quite reach the dazzling perfection of the thematically similar Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but what can?) Overall, this 27th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe proves that this unprecedented series is like a great TV show, built on characters we really care about, whose trials and tribulations are truly affecting.

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