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Peter Parker’s Summer Vacation |

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Peter Parker’s Summer Vacation

THE X-PAT FILES - Scott R. Garceau - The Philippine Star
Peter Parkerâs Summer Vacation
Spider-Man (Tom Holland) returns for European summer fun in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Photos from Columbia Pictures

After the funny, frantic, fresh reboots Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017 and last year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, where else would Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (23-year-old Tom Holland, here passably playing age 16), find himself but on a European vacation, with high school classmates along for the ride? In Spider-Man: Far From Home, a teen road trip disguised as a superhero movie, those would include MJ (Zendaya), Ned (half-Pinoy Jacob Batalon), Peter’s nemesis Eugene “Flash” Thompson (Tony Revolori), high school TV anchor Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) and romantic rival Brad (Remy Hii).

Homecoming opens with a great riff on saying goodbye to the Avengers: Whitney Houston choking her way through I Will Always Love You, played over a laptop-made “In Memoriam” video that features Google Image shots of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, et al. Turns out it’s the Midtown High TV hosts, filling us in on what’s happened since “the Blip” or “Snap” — you know, that period when Thanos destroyed half the life in the universe, and the Avengers did a do-over, not without suffering their own losses.

It’s 2023, and Stark’s still dead, but his driver, Happy (Jon Favreau), has an important message for Peter: Nick Fury is trying to get in touch with him. Urgently. But Peter’s only got summer fun in mind, with a plan to reveal his true feelings to MJ (Zendaya), maybe somewhere cool like the Eiffel Tower.

Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) lends a hand to S.H.I.E.L.D. and takes up superhero duties while Peter’s on vacay.

But a wrinkle arises with the arrival of a certain Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has a habit of turning up when monster attacks occur in key global cities. Wearing a glass helmet filled with green gas to disguise his identity and a superhero suit, Beck quickly earns the name “Mysterio” from Italian TV news when he thwarts an attack by a giant water monster in Venice, where the Midtown High kids are starting their summer class trip. Known as the Elementals, these attackers correspond to the mythical four elements and seem to be kept under control by Beck, working with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. No wonder Peter thinks he can kick back and enjoy Europe instead.

This is a strong cast with memorable comic turns, including Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Martin Starr as hapless school teacher Mr. Harrington and J.B. Smoove being, well, J.B. Smoove.

Not to be ignored — because this is basically a teen summer vacay movie with occasional periods of cloudiness and monster attacks — is the strong chemistry between Holland and Zendaya, as well as Holland and sidekick Batalon. The “Guy in the Chair” is distracted during this road trip by other things, but he’s still a reliable comic foil. And Zendaya has mastered the deadpan MJ side-eye thing that she first kicked into gear in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

It’s Gyllenhaal who provides, initially, the mentoring role that young Parker so keenly craves since Tony Stark has perished. Beck even sports similar facial hair and a soulful look (though much less snark), trying to get the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man to think about his responsibilities beyond the ’hood.

Second in mentoring duty is Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson), who shows up to guilt Peter into picking up the Avengers mantle. You know, do it for the team.

Betty Brant (Angourie Rice), Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ forget to pull out their cellphones.

A third mentor is Favreau, who looks on as Parker customizes the features on a new Spidey suit: it’s a curious echo of Happy watching his former boss run his formidable brain to solve a problem, and most likely a foreshadowing of the role Parker will play in the future Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A fourth mentor is, you guessed it, still Tony Stark, whose oversized ego and influence manages to show up even after death, even in the choice of an acronym for the new sporty Italian sunglasses/tech gear he’s designed for Parker.

Jon Watts directs again after Homecoming, and this has the same zippy, jazzy pace, down to the hand-drawn, ad hoc final credits. (Stick around for two post-credits bits.) Writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers return here to add a lot of flava and the jokes fly fast — and funny — while the action is ratcheted up even more.

The journey — with mysteriously upgraded tour bus and accommodations — takes the Midtown batchmates through Venice, Prague, Berlin, the Netherlands (though not Amsterdam, because these are schoolkids) and London, and it’s kind of fun to revisit those very same locations you recall from your own summer journeys, even as you enjoy the riffs on old-fashioned Europe (the four-hour Vienna operas, the overly trusting Dutch, the obligatory look at the Crown Jewels in Tower of London, the pigeons at Piazza San Marco). All are given the McKenna/Sommers touch.

Will you have guessed some of the crucial plot twists a third of the way into the movie? Well, duh, yes, if you’ve seen the trailer. Is the movie’s focus on “illusion tech” and “People believe whatever I tell them is the truth” a reflection on our post-truth reality these days? You bet. Are we entering a brand-new MCU era of Elementals and Eternals and other multiverse-type villains and heroes? Spidey senses say yes, decidedly so.

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