Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The teenaged child of an embarrassingly affectionate African American policeman father (voice of Brian Tyree Henry) and Latina nurse mom (voice of Luna Lauren Velez), Brooklyn's Miles Morales (voice of Shameik Moore) eases the awkwardness of fitting into a new private school in Manhattan by hanging with his sketchy Uncle Aaron (voice of Mahershala Ali), who brings him to a secret subway tunnel where he can develop his graffiti art. After reacting strangely to a spider bite there, Miles returns to find it and ends up witnessing Spider-Man (voice of Chris Pine) trying to derail Kingpin's (voice of Liev Schrieber) nuclear super collider. Kingpin is victorious, but the dying Peter Parker entrusts a valuable key to Miles just before that collider opens a portal to several parallel worlds with their own unique versions of the Superhero in "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."

Laura's Review: B+

Persistence has finally paid off with this frequently rebooted franchise - not only is this one of the most enjoyable "Spider-Man" movies to hit the big screen, it's one of the most dazzling animations of the year. Based on the 2011 characters by Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli in their Spider-Men comic, there are now untold possibilities for variations on the well known character.

In this new iteration, we learn that the Spider-Man persona is passed on, here from Peter Parker to Miles after Peter's ten years of service. On top of that, there are alternate universes, each with their own spin on the superhero, including Peter B. Parker (voice of Jake Johnston), an older, paunchier version of the web-slinger than we are used to, who becomes Miles's amusing mentor.

Before that happens, Miles has suddenly outgrown his clothes, is sticking to everything and sweating profusely, things which are all attributed to puberty, causing all kinds of embarrassment in front of cool new schoolmate Wanda (voice of Hailee Steinfeld). As it turns out, though, Wanda's a few steps ahead of him, one of two female Spider-'Men' from parallel worlds, the other being an anime version from the future, Peni Parker (voice of Kimiko Glenn), with her robotic 'suit.' The other male Spideys are both throwbacks to a past before classic Spider-Man, the self-explanatory b&w Spider-Man Noir (voice of Nicolas Cage) and the Looney Tunes inspired Spider-Ham (voice of John Mulaney).

What's so much fun here is that everything is very familiar but also very different. Miles's 'Verse' includes a Mary Jane (voice of Zoë Kravitz), Doc Ock (voice of Kathryn Hahn) and a very feisty Aunt May (voice of Lily Tomlin), but also a new villain who is very close to home.

Producers Phil Lord (who also cowrote the screenplay with Rodney Rothman) and Christopher Miller of "The Lego Movie" fame have taken giant leaps forward with the production. The animation is a combination of CGI and hand drawn, every image subtly layered with the Ben-Day dots of comic book printing. The images explode from the screen in split frames and all manner of razzle dazzle, accompanied by a great Daniel Pemberton score. The writing is sharp, humor veering into "Deadpool" style irreverence while messaging about finding our own strengths, then taking a 'leap of faith.'

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is a real holiday gift, an unexpected surprise. At a time when superhero movies have so glutted the market they've out stayed their welcome, this one should have folks begging for the next installment. Grade:

Robin's Review: B+

Young Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is just a regular kid – until he is bitten by a radioactive spider. He is just starting to understand his new powers when the evil Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) hatches a plan to open up other universes to his personal exploitation. But, those universes also have their own version of Spider-Man and Miles joins forces with them to put a stop to the dastardly plot in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

I am definitely not a fan of Marvel, in general, or Spider-Man, in particular, but that does not matter with this outing in the Spidey saga. If you have a good sense of humor you will appreciate the clever and intelligent wit and story – and the animation is pretty darn good, too.

The three co-directors – Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman – are newcomers to helming animation features, but you would not know it while watching the first Spidey animated feature movie. (Yes, I know there are many animated TV versions of the Spider-Man tale, but this is the first feature in that genre.) Miles Morales is also a groundbreaker to the franchise as the first black Spider-Man and, between the animators, storytellers and Shameik Moore giving him a likable persona, is a great addition to the franchise. But, this is not about a single Spidey.

Kingpin’s nefarious plan uses the super collider to open portals to five other universes. But, opening these paths is a two way street and each has their own Spidey personae, making for a gold mine of ideas and characters. This is where the story covers material well-known to the fans, like Doc Ock, and introduces the rest of us to Team Spider-Man – Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Haillee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) (the first porker Spidey), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) – with each uniquely different and amusing.

As I said, I am no Spider-Man fan, but I am one for this particular installment of the saga. The writing team, led by Phil Lord, keep thing fast-moving and flashy but also take plenty of time to bomb us adults out there with humor, both visual and intellectual (sort of), making this outing loads of fun.