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Working vacation

Zendaya (left) and Tom Holland (Jay Maidment/Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP)

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Working vacation

Spider-Man: Far From Home offers rom-com fun and superhero battles but is marred by family-unfriendly jokes

With nearly every big-budget movie release somehow involving superheroes, my favorites now tend to be the ones that are the least superhero-y. To wit: Some early reviewers have complained that Spider-Man: Far From Home takes too long to get down to the serious work of battling bad guys. But I’d argue that the second the villain of the piece steps forward is when the good times slow their roll. Thankfully, that doesn’t come until the halfway point, after we’ve enjoyed big laughs watching sunny Peter Parker (Tom Holland) awkwardly attempt to woo the Gothically inclined MJ (Zendaya) amid gorgeous Venetian and Alpine scenery.

For those who feel as I do, Far From Home is a nice compromise—bubbly rom-com fun on the one hand, CGI-heavy caped crusading on the other. Yes, fans weathered some sorrow with Avengers: Endgame, but this is Marvel. True to brand, even the retrospective for loved ones lost is played for laughs. Spidey, too, is ready to take a break from the heavy stuff. He just wants to see some sights on his European class trip and to tell MJ how he feels, in true Sleepless in Seattle style, at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Unfortunately, a web-slinger’s work is never done. Peter barely sets foot in the Piazza San Marco when Nick Fury arrives with an assignment. 

Without giving away spoilers, director Jon Watts uses newcomer Jake Gyllenhaal to explore modern anxiety over media narratives while avoiding taking political sides. Media—both slick network outfits and indie operators likely to find themselves kicked off Twitter—engage in fake news dissemination. Building on this tension, an end-credits scene potentially sets up a great worldview debate to come.

One downside parents should note is that along with a bit of bad language, this film’s PG-13 rating comes with two porn-related jokes that do a disservice to the sweet, innocent spirit we love about Spidey. Reminder to Marvel: The cinema superhero juggernaut began in part because there were so few options the whole family could enjoy together. Don’t stop saving the day now.