Claims that the movie rom-com is dead are somewhat exaggerated — like most everything else in Hollywood, they’ve relocated to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Spider-Man: Far From Home, for instance, is an appealing story of high school puppy love interrupted periodically by — yawn — water monsters and fire monsters (my personal least favorite) invading Earth from another dimension, blah, blah, blah.
That blah, blah, blah, by the way, reflects the movie’s own attitude toward the big-battle boilerplate that hamstrings so many MCU movies, which in the end rise and fall on the appeal of their characters.
The value and uses of spectacle become part of the story in Far From Home, which can be read as a bit of playful in-house MCU criticism of CGI fatigue. Certainly the movie is not afraid to poke fun at the self-seriousness of the just-wrapped Avengers cycle, and the infamous Snap.
In Far From Home, set just a few months after Avengers: Endgame, it’s referred to as the Blip. A clever opening sequence at the New York City high school of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) includes a (pitch-perfect) corny student film that reviews the sudden disappearance/reappearance phenomenon.
The blipped (like Peter) return just as they left, while everyone else aged five years. Thus does Peter finds himself pursuing MJ (Zendaya) while contending with an out-of-nowhere new suitor — a former middle school nerd now grown to a strapping hunk.
“All the girls are after him,” says Peter’s pal Ned (Jacob Batalon).
All the girls?
Peter will find out on a class trip to Europe, where he hopes to confess his feelings to her at the base of the Eiffel Tower. To that end, he wants a few weeks off from being a superhero and leaves his suit at home, but water monsters appear in Venice, fire monsters in Prague, and Nick Fury wants Spider-Man to help him quell an outbreak.
Parker gets a European nickname and a new temporary costume, making for some amusing quick-change comedy. These scenes also introduce the character of Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a dude who follows the monsters to Earth from another dimension and who works with Peter to combat them.
Peter also inherits a pair of AI sunglasses (like something out of a ’60s Fellini film, appropriate to the Euro locales) from the late Tony Stark, whose pre-programmed wisecracks mean he’s still getting laughs. The powerful goggles figure in the ensuing plot, which is built around plays on Peter’s teen ambivalence at accepting the responsibilities that come with Avengerdom.
Much of this has to do with his feelings for MJ. Love is in the air. Ned has a complementary crush on the school resident Tracy Flick (Angourie Rice, who was so good in The Nice Guys, and who has an expanded role here).
Stark gopher Hap (Jon Favreau) is also spending – in Peter’s opinion – way too much quality time with Aunt Mae, still played by the ageless Marisa Tomei.
Speaking of ageless – if you recognize one of the bad guys, it’s because it’s Favreau’s buddy Peter Billingsley, uncredited, otherwise known as Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Spider-Man: Far From Home. Directed by Jon Watts. With Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice. Distributed by Disney.
Parents guide: PG-13 (sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments)
Run time: 2 hours, 9 mins.