Tiny heroes, big laughs in breezy “Ant-Man and the Wasp”
Following the jaw-dropping ending of “Avengers: Infinity War,” which left many a movie-goer in stunned silence, Marvel returns to more light-hearted fare, proving that big (and often funny) things come in small packages with “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
A follow up to 2015‘s “Ant-Man,” this sequel — set between the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” is just as happily (and appropriately) smaller in scale, never pretended it to be anything other than that. Ant-Man, aka Scott Lang (again played by Paul Rudd) is under house arrest following the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” and is on the outs with scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) for the same reason. Hank and Hope are fugitives for the time being, working from a laboratory in a high-rise building, which they keep secret by shrinking it — the entire building — to convenient carry-on bag size when they’re not using it.
Their latest project is building a quantum tunnel to take them to the quantum realm, where Hope’s mom, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) has been trapped for the past three decades. They need Scott’s help because he’s the only known person who’s been to the quantum realm and returned, and now, he seems to have some kind of quantum entanglement with Janet. The word “quantum” is repeated about a zillion times in this movie, by the way.
As far as what drives the overall plot of the movie, that’s it: to rescue Janet from the quantum realm, but as it goes, complications — several of them — arise. Hank has built a nifty new suit for Hope, one with wings and blasters, while Scott’s “work in progress” suit keeps malfunctioning, enlarging and shrinking him at random, typically to comedic effect. More serious complications include the buying of a necessary quantum-tunnel component from a black-market dealer named Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and a ghost-like figure (Hannah Jones-Kamen), both of whom keep trying to steal it, as well as the shrunken laboratory, which often gets tossed around like a suitcase without any of the delicate lab equipment inside being damaged. This occurred to me several times, but I digress…
A former partner and now enemy of Pym, Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) also is involved, and as in original “Ant-Man,” the film makes good use for Scott’s friend and fellow ex-con, Louis (Michael Pena) as well. Returning director Payton Reed (who also helmed comedies such as “Yes Man” and “Down With Love,” among others) keeps the same sensibilities here he had in the original, and the screenplay gears much of the action towards comedy, drawing humor from minor things that come up during serious situations (Scott receiving a phone call from his daughter while he and his teammates are in peril, for example) to the mundane aspects of real daily life intruding upon the comic book word (or here, Marvel Cinematic Universe). It’s a strategy that usually — usually — works well and delivers laughs while also supplying exposition to the audience.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is not without some emotions, either, notably in the parent/child relationships with Hope and Janet and Scott and daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston), with some genuine “aww” inducing moments between the latter two. Each character’s motivations feel authentic. Scott feels guilty for the situation he’s created for Hope and Hank (what, with his actions causing them to constantly having to be on the run, and whatnot), while Hope and Hank are driven to retrieve the believed-still-alive Janet from the quantum realm (in case the word “quantum” hadn’t already been mentioned enough in this review). Even the ghostly “villain’s” motivations here seem believable, almost understandable, as her power is also a curse — one from which she seeks to be cured, even if it puts her into conflict with the protagonists. To say much more would be to spoil an enjoyable, largely fun and visually impressive movie.
Rudd plays Scott as well as he has in the past here, with his usual Paul Rudd-charm used to full effect as the well-meaning hero and dad. Lilly’s Wasp almost always outshines Lang’s Ant-Man in the heroics, but it’s never to show off or outdo her male counterpart. You always know that, in her heart, she just wants to bring her long-missing mom home. Despite a few slow scenes, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” ultimately succeeds in audience-pleasing, adding (even expounding) on the ever-growing tapestry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with energy, action, comedy, heart, and one aspect of the “Ant-Man” movies that never gets old: seeing characters and objects grow radically larger or smaller in the blink of an eye. Visually-speaking, that still hasn’t gotten old.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is rated PG-13 for minor profanity, mild action violence, and gratuitous use of The Partridge Family’s “Come On Get Happy.” “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is playing in Rogers County at Claremore Cinema 8. For showtimes, call 918-342-2422.