The Brunching Shuttlecocks Features


Talk about Don't Try This At Home.

As our society reels with the controversy of whether violent television and violent video games are warping our impressionable youth, along comes a film which is destined to cause kids, all too eager to mimic whatever 'cool' things they see on the screen, to horribly mangle or dismember themselves to no end.


Come on now, in this day of "Monkey See, Monkey Do" how soon is it before we learn of the tragic tale of little Billy Mushmouth who fell to his death from the fifteenth story shouting "Go Web, Go!" How soon until little Bobby Mushmouth leaps from his bedroom window in an attempt to reach the rooftops, only to impale himself on the white picket fence outside? How soon until little Bobo Mushmouth pulls the rubber mask over his head and suffocates because no one bothered to design air holes?

What is this film going to bring us? Aside form a dearth of Mushmouth children?

Ah well, since the world's going all to Hell anyway, we may as well enjoy it.

Spider-Man brings to the screen the story of Spider-Man. He's a comic book superhero. You may have heard of him. Truth be told, Spider-Man is probably the most successful comic book superhero yet to make the leap onto the big screen, and this is the film fans have been waiting a very long time to see. And unlike some superhero films I could name, this one doesn't suck.

The film gives a quickie origin story and then rams Spidey headlong into the Green Goblin. In layman's terms, that means this film tells the story of Peter Parker; nerd, pushover, high school geek. Parker is very quickly bitten by a genetically enhanced spider. (Updating the original comic book, in which it's a radioactive spider. Wouldn't that be funny now? SCENE ONE - Peter is bitten by radioactive spider. SCENE TWO - Peter dies from radiation poisoning. THE END)

Being bitten by a genetically enhanced spider will do strange things to you. Fix your vision. Make you strong. Stick to walls. Spin a web. Any size. Catch a thief. Just like flies. Now genetically enhanced, Peter does what any warm-blooded American would do. Tries out Professional Wrestling.

After which he has a go at fighting crime.

Enter the Green Goblin, who is really just some crazy scientist in a flashy Rollerball outfit. In the comic book, he had exploding pumpkins. This time they're exploding mechanical gizmos that are shaped like pumpkins, which is to say, they're round. Eventually, the Green Goblin hunts down Spider-Man. There's a battle. Someone wins. I won't ruin it by telling you who. (Although it's not like they just announced plans for a "Green Goblin 2" or anything).

Folks, this is a comic book. If you have been salivating heavily at the trailers, heart pounding at the thought of little Tobey Maguire swinging through the streets of the city, then by all means go see this movie. You will be so very, very pleased you may spontaneously combust from joy. For the rest of us, know that this ain't half bad. It's fun. It's a comic book. It's directed by Sam Raimi, who is totally cool. It has a cameo from Bruce Campbell, who is more than totally cool. In fact, let's go ahead and call this "Evil Dead 5." (Loyal readers will already know the identity of "Evil Dead 4.")

How is Tobey as Spidey? As fine as anyone can be wearing a mask which completely conceals your face. In fact, for all we know, Tobey isn't Spider-Man, it's Nathan Lane swinging from rooftop to rooftop.

"Do these tights do me justice or what?"

How is Tobey as Peter Parker? Quite good. Personable. Pathetic when he needs to be. Empathetic when he ought to be. Kirsten Dunst is also quite admirable as girl next door, Mary Jane Watson. She's awfully sweet and pretty, red hair and everything. The man who steals the show, however, is Willem DaFoe, and not just because his name is Willem. Like all great comic book movies, the juiciest parts are the bad guys. Here, Willem gets to go crazy. And that's always fun to watch.

Not to mislead you into thinking this is some actor's piece, let's touch on the CGI. Not bad. Most of the CGI is Spidey swinging around, or the Green Goblin flying around. Sadly, there are times when CGI people swinging on webs look like nothing so much as CGI people swinging on webs. CGI people just don't exactly look like real people. They come awfully close, but there aren't many four year olds who would have trouble spotting the CGI dude in a line-up. Sad, but true.

Not that they don't try, and do an admirable job.

As the movie reminds us right up front, this is a story about people, about love, about a girl.

That it's also about a kid who shoots webs from his wrists is secondary. No, really.

This sadistic love quadrilateral is both a strength and a weakness. Want motivation? Toss in a chick. However, chicks mean scenes with people talking about their feelings. And that can get boring when you really just want to see the webbed freak sling a sticky web. Pick your poison, the movie becomes better balanced at the expense of being a no-holds-barred thrill ride. Still, it's not like it's Pearl Harbor or anything.

I spin up a bountiful 3 3/4 Babylons for this movie. The first cool summer blockbuster of 2002. When does the theme park ride open?

Editor's Note:

I think we need a word for "films-that-make-114-million-in-3-days" besides "blockbuster"- how about "Stanleeisonebadmotherbuster"?

Rated: PG-13
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem DaFoe, Kirsten Dunst, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, James Franco and Hammy the Genetically-Enhanced Arachnid. Does NOT star anyone from the upcoming spider-squashing epic, Eight Legged Freaks. I hear the two crews had a rumble.

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