MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ delivers heart, spellbinding animation, fun with super-hero action

Sony Pictures Animation

This has already been the Year of Marvel at the movie box office. Five of the top 10 highest grossing films of this year domestically feature characters cultivated in the Marvel Universe.

“Black Panther” tops the list at $700 million, followed by “Avengers: Infinity War” at No. 2 with $679 million, “Deadpool 2” at No. 5 with $318 million, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” at No. 8 with $217 million, and “Venom” at No. 10 with $213 million.

New In Local Theaters

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG) 1 hr. 56 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Towne, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • The Mule (R) 1 hr. 56 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle, Bentonville Skylight)
    » Watch trailer
  • Mortal Engines (PG-13) 2 hr. 8 min.
    (AMC Fiesta a Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • Vox Lux (R) 1 hr. 54 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square)
    » Watch trailer
  • Once Upon a Deadpool (PG-13) 1 hr. 59 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer

When all is said and done, don’t be surprised if a sixth Marvel film isn’t added to that top-10 tally because “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a delightful family-oriented, animated action-comedy that is one of the best and most original popcorn movies of the year.

The animation is stunningly beautiful, but like the best Spider-Man tales from the comics, the story, developed by Phil Lord with a screenplay by him and Rodney Rothman, is full of heart and centered on family and sacrifice. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rothman deliver a kinetic comic-book on film that is immersive, exciting, thrilling and fun even as it tugs on the heartstrings.

The movie introduces 13-year-old Miles Morales, a half African-American, half Puerto Rican kid from Brooklyn, who similar to his mentor Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically suped-up spider that more or less gives him all the powers of the traditional Spider-Man plus the ability to virtually turn invisible and a stinging venom strike defensive mechanism.

The Morales character was introduced in the comics in 2011 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sarah Pichelli as one of the bevy of alternate dimension Spider-people that populate the Marvel Comics multiverse.

Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore) is the central figure of the movie, but he is aided and abetted in his quest to thwart villains Kingpin (Live Schreiber), The Prowler (Mahershala Ali) and Doctor Octopus (Kathryn Hahn) by several Spider-themed characters, including Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy/Spider Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage).

Along with the action, Lord interwove a family connection into the plot that draws Miles’ policeman father (Brian Tyree Henry) and his uncle into the fray. Bolstering the strong story is the fantastically gleeful animation and a fourth-wall breaking story-telling style that might remind some of the ploy director/screenwriter Adam McKay used in his Oscar-winning screenplay for “The Big Short.”

Despite telling a story with very familiar characters, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” felt fresh, new, and exciting. I had assumed “Incredibles 2” would have no challengers in the Best Animated Feature category of the Academy Awards, but as strong as the Pixar sequel was, if I had a vote today, “Into the Spider-Verse” would be my pick.

Classic Corner

On Tuesday night at 7 p.m. (CT), Turner Classic Movie channel features “Treasures From the Disney Vault,” and the theme this time out is athletics with five funny, live-action Disney films that are rarely shown any longer.

While Disney is best known for its animated features and shorts, from the 1950s through the 1970s, the bulk of the studio’s output was family-friendly films that were formulaic but awfully funny featuring the likes of Fred MacMurray, Tim Conway, Don Knotts, Phil Silvers, Ed Asner, Jan-Michael Vincent, Kurt Russell, and a host of other familiar and funny faces.

Here’s a look at the films on tap Tuesday that TCM will air intermingled with several classic Disney animated shorts.

The Absent-Minded Professor
The movie features Fred MacMurray as a college professor who invents flubber (flying rubber) that gives his university’s basketball game a distinct advantage in this 1961 comedy.

Son of Flubber
The 1963 sequel returns the entire cast from “The Absent-Minded Professor” and is just as wacky and nearly as funny as the original.

The World’s Greatest Athlete
This 1973 film stars a young Jan-Michael Vincent as a Tarzan-like character who is recruited/abducted by coaches John Amos (“Good Times”) and Tim Conway (“The Carroll Burnett Show”) to compete in track and field for their college’s woeful athletics program.

The Strongest Man in the World
Kurt Russell stars as a college student who discovers a chemical that drastically increases his strength in this 1975 feature, which also stars Dick Van Patten, Cesar Romero, Eve Arden, and Phil Silvers.

This 1976 movie is perhaps the wildest of all the outlandish Disney live-action features. The lead character is a Yugoslavian donkey that kicks field goals for a team coached by Don Knotts and owned by Ed Asner.