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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

For $200 million, maybe you were expecting something original?

Director: Marc Webb
Rating PG-13. Running Time: ‎2hr 16min
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary

In what surely is a world record for a big-studio remake of a hit movie, here comes The Amazing Spider-Man swinging into theaters, chewing over the same story that was told in Sam Raimi's spectacular Spider-Man, starring Tobey McGuire, in 2002.

See also: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton remake Dark Shadows

This time around, the 3-D is breathtaking, the performances are solid (especially Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter Parker/Spider-Man's foster parents) and the direction of the appropriately named Marc Webb is perfectly measured.

I was actually looking forward to seeing what Webb would do with the material: He directed one of my favorite movies of 2009, the delightfully spare and quirky indie film (500) Days of Summer. After that little gem, throwing Webb into Spidey World was akin to commissioning Charles Schulz to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. He seizes the assignment with both hands and never lets go. Good for him. But really, did we need to spin this web again?

Andrew Garfield stars as Spider-Man in Columbia Pictures' "The Amazing Spider-man,"

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The 3-D is breathtaking in "The Amazing Spider-Man."

Sensing that audiences might be reluctant to revisit the Spider-Man saga, Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios have been hyping this version as "The Untold Story" (and for that they ought to write a check to my old pals at the National Enquirer). But this untold story seems mighty familiar. Peter's still an awkward high school kid, he still gets bitten by a mutant spider and he still spends half the movie getting used to his new spider-like powers. Trouble is, while this is all quite new to Peter, to us in the audience it's all old hat. "Hey Peter!" we want to yell. "Try swinging from your silk strands! It'll be awesome!"

Did I say Peter is a high school kid? Andrew Garfield is quite good in the role - alternately goofy and heroic - but the guy is nearly 30, and it shows. And Emma Stone, who plays his high school crush, is 24. It all becomes a little reminiscent of the last seasons of Happy Days, when Fonzie seemed old enough to date Mrs. Cunningham.

So many talented pros poured so much work into The Amazing Spider-Man (not to mention the studios' reported $200 million-plus) you want to root for its success. Handsome and fun in the friendliest of ways, it's every bit as good as the original. But the original is within the living memory of my 13-year-old granddaughter, and I'd be hard-pressed to find a compelling reason to have her sit through this slightly reworked reboot.

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