Cinema’s first truly family friendly superhero is super tiny, and his name is Scott. If there is one clear reason why Marvel’s latest cinematic party guest Ant-Manworks, it’s the presence of Paul Rudd, the easy to like comedy star next door.
He’s relatable. While it’s highly unlikely you’ll run into Thor or Iron Man in a grocery store, you might bump into a guy like Rudd. His ability to slip into Scott Lang’s skin makes this light as a feather summer delight go down smooth if not blow people away.
The setup is easy to get comfortable with. Lang is a thief who can’t stay out of trouble and comes into the sight of Dr. Hank Pym(Michael Douglas), a man who may know a thing or two about shrinking a man down to the size of an ant to fight crime. When Pym’s deranged protege tries to sell the science to Hydra(remember those bad dudes from Captain America: Winter Soldier), Pym calls on the ordinary Scott to help him save the day. Our hero also has a daughter he wants to see more. It’s all familiar so just roll with it.
While not as great as some of its predecessors, Ant-Man has its unique pleasures. After 20 minutes of composition, Scott is shrunk down to the size of a bug and the action kicks in. You got a man running around in a suit with armies of ants learning how to think, move and adapt like them. If you think this sounds ridiculous, you are right but it’s Marvel. Doubting them is like not wanting to know what’s inside the shiny suitcase. It’s as crazy as doubting Chuck Norris in a firefight. Just go with it and keep sipping the soda. The film’s quick pace never allows you to think about what is going on for too long.
It helps that the other Marvel movies are worked into the plot. As mentioned, the big bad Hydra plays a part. A couple popular Avengers show up and dance with Scott, and by the end, the next entry is being teased. Everything in between is a gas if you can suspend belief and get friendly with the idea of Rudd kicking butt while flying on a large ant across a city.
Director Peyton Reed and a four man writing army(original director Edgar Wright, Rudd, Joe Cornish, and Adam McKay) keep things rolling and aren’t afraid to humanize our hero. Michael Pena is hilarious as Lang’s burglar pal and Evangeline Lilly works her magic as Pym’s daughter. The humor never walks more than a scene away and the action is tongue in cheek. Pathos, depth and poignancy don’t exist here and that is fine. Reed’s resume never suggested this was going to be wonderful, and it doesn’t have to be. Ant-Man keeps Marvel’s streak going without being special in its own way.
Don’t be surprised when a climactic action fight takes place on a Thomas The Train set or when our hero is embarrassed by his own name. While Douglas has a couple of the more serious scenes, the rest of the cast is in on the “let’s make a fun if not noteworthy summer diversion” idea. Stoll chews more scenery than most villains and Bobby Cannavale even shows up as the dead beat new fiance of Lang’s ex-wife. This is gravy. Not a steak.
Throughout it all, Rudd is the key ingredient. He makes the film tick. Whenever things get weird or too ordinary, Rudd does something funny and lovable to pull us back into the fun. He also sells the “little guy hero” stuff and got into great shape. Without Rudd, this movie just doesn’t work.
You won’t leave Ant-Man in amazement, but it also won’t hit you over the head with a hammer like Avengers: Age of Ultron did. It’s easy to like, diverting and best of all, funny. Marvel needed a dose of lightness and Ant-Man provides just the human touch.
Stay for the post credits tease of Captain America: Civil War.