Nobody speaks the web-slinger's famously humane credo — that with great power must come great responsibility -- in Jon Watts' brash Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first Spidey flick as ebullient as the comics you read when you were a kid. But that truth pulses through the film: He's protector rather than avenger or punisher, not just of the young woman he crushes on (Laura Harrier) but also of his Queens neighborhood's ATMs and bodega cats, of his classmates and families, even of the criminals he busts (for whom he exhibits a compassion rare in American hero stories).
As in Sam Raimi's soulful Spider-Man 2, the most rousing of the many and varied action set pieces here find him helping rather than hitting, trying to make sure regular people get home safely. This time, though, a moral question underpins the excitement. In many of these rescue scenes, on ferries and monuments, it's thanks to Spider-Man's recklessness that everyone's in danger in the first place. The movie is buoyant even as it charts the young hero's cock-ups, glancing against its lessons rather than hammering them home: Responsibility means actually being responsible, not just performing heroics.
Homecoming is precise in its milieu, vaulting along Queens Boulevard, attentive to local color and addresses. Lead Tom Holland's rasp and stammer at times suggest a raw young Michael J. Fox, without the ironic detachment. Spidey's new best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), catches on to Peter Parker's secret -- and geeks out so winningly that the hero can't mope in his bedroom. Batalon and Holland have chemistry like vinegar and baking soda, fizzing a little out of control whenever they're put together.