Since we last visited, M.J. is singing old showtunes on the Broadway stage with a voice so thin it could use both greater power and greater responsibility.
The rivalry between Tobey and James Franco continues, too. Franco is hanging ten on a flying surfboard until he’s grounded by the government: “OSHA requires me to install a handrail and a handicapped ramp,” explains Franco.
When he’s not plotting the demise of Spider-Man, Franco is a sensitive painter. “Do I kill Spider-Man today,” he says, “or paint a pitcher and a bowl of fruit?! Lo, the burden of choice weighs down upon me!”
Good news! Spider-man not only shoots webs but can also shoot web balls.
“Stop hitting me with balls of web,” said Topher Grace, “it’s gross!”
“Only if you explain to me what a ‘Topher’ is!” replied Spidey. “Is it Brooklyn-style Tofu?”
There’s James Cromwell as the elder police captain. Cromwell has cornered the market on roles like this. “In the future,” said Cromwell, “audiences will believe every American male over 60 was me.”
Cut to prison escapee Thomas Haden Church and Theresa Russell, his disgruntled wife. It’s remarkable that Russell is in this movie at all if it means she had to act her way out of a paper bag to get here.
On the run, Church tumbles into a pit where a group of scientists is demolecularizing stuff. What could be the practical value of this, you ask? I’ll give you 258 million practical reasons and they’re called the budget of Spider-Man 3.
Church is transformed into a sand castle, proving that super-powers ain’t what they used to be.
“A man of sand? What’s next?” asked an incredulous Spider-Man, “a foe who can turn into a couch and fit in with any décor?”
Terror comes alive when a puff of Thomas Haden Sand strikes Manhattan. “This is even more frightening than Cats!” screamed one alarmed TV news reporter. “Where’s high tide when you need it?” asked a hot dog vendor who had evidently seen it all and steamed it all into a hot dog at one time or another.
“Normally folks don’t like sand in their underwear,” explained Church, “but that’s all I have in mine.”
“You’re telling me,” groused his movie spouse.
Tobey and Kirstin Dunst stretch out on a hammocky web as black goop falls from the sky. Tobey’s science professor determines that this goop needs a host to survive, “…not unlike the Jimmy Kimmel Show,” he said.
This goop envelops Spider-Man, turning his wardrobe all black and qualifying him for that sales associate job at Z Gallerie.
Yes, Spider-Man’s dark side is revealed, the side where the eyes are lined and the hair is draped over their forehead, Hitler-style.
And wouldn’t you know it, the ladies like the bad boy - until the “cool” goes to Tobey’s head in a classically hilarious sequence, turning Spider-Man 3 into the perfect remake of Jerry Lewis’s Nutty Professor.
Can Spidey remove the dark menace? “You bet!” says a triumphant Spider-Man, “Once you go black, you CAN go back.”
All our old friends are here, even Ursula, Tobey’s emaciated next-door neighbor who invites him over for a meal of carrot sticks and vomit.
“I’m one step ahead of you on the vomit,” says a disgusted Tobey.
The great thing about this movie, like its predecessors, is that it’s not a comic book flick per se, it’s a movie about real people in a comic book world – a world graced with deliciously scene-stealing cameos by Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell, I might add.
And what’s the take-home lesson? That we all have choices, and they make us who we are.
Oh, and beware of interstellar black goop.
Spider-Man 3 is the kind of movie screens are made big for.
“It’s hip, it’s now, it’s wow. And how!”