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MOVIE REVIEW: With 'Ant-Man,' Marvel gives fans a psychological break with an irreverent, comical but action-packed adventure

By PIERS MARCHANT Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published July 6, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

ghost-hannah-john-kamen-a-giant-version-of-ant-man-paul-rudd-and-wasp-evangeline-lilly-team-up-to-rescue-the-wasps-mother-from-something-called-the-quantum-realm-where-she-has-been-stuck-for-the-past-30-years-in-the-refreshingly-breakneck-superhero-comedy-ant-man-and-the-wasp

Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a giant version of Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) team up to rescue the Wasp’s mother from something called the Quantum Realm where she has been stuck for the past 30 years in the refreshingly breakneck superhero comedy Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

87 Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas

Director: Peyton Reed

Rating: PG-13, for some sci-fi violence

Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is a brilliant scientist obsessed with retrieving his wife from the bad place he sent her long ago in Ant-Man and the W...

In keeping with the whole micro/macro element of the Ant-Man character, you can see Marvel Studio's thinking on this whole thing: A scant 10 weeks ago, they released Avengers: Infinity War, a go-for-broke, bonkers film that involved literally dozens of costumed heroes and multiple locations, spread out over the galaxy, everyone joining up to try and stop the dreaded force of Thanos and his Michael Jackson glove of Infinity Stone power.

For its next act, then, the studio has turned the dials all the way back down, and produced another action set-to, only entirely domestic (well, except for the whole Quantum Universe thing), and involves exactly two heroes, and one aged former hero. For a villain, instead of Thanos, the destroyer of galaxies, there's a man named Sonny (Walton Goggins), a barracuda of an unscrupulous business man, intent on stealing the super high-tech quantum lab put together by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), in order to try and save his wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who has been lost in that micro-realm for more than 30 years.

As they learned over the process of churning out comic titles for nigh upon six decades, Marvel has different characters to suit different needs. Cinematically -- and I note in their front-bumper, Marvel no longer even alludes to the comic pages the characters are pulled from, instead opting to reference their own burgeoning library of films -- the studio has its serious heroes (Captain America, Iron-Man, Black Panther, the Avengers), and then it has its more comical division (Thor, Guardians, Spider-Man) to lighten things up. Ant-Man, aka Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is definitely in the latter category. A failed thief with a serious conscience and a delightful 10-year-old daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson), Lang got involved with Pym in the first film, while also falling in love with Pym's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), aka The Wasp.

All was great, until Lang was discovered to have broken his parole by heading over to Germany to help out the Captain in Captain America: Civil War. This eventually led to Lang being hit with two years of house arrest and Pym and Hope having to go on the lam from the Feds for giving him the tech in the first place.

As this film begins, Lang is just days away from fulfilling his time served, whereupon he can finally leave his home and get out from the ever-watchful eye of FBI officer Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). He's all set for his last weekend of incarceration, but for a peculiar sudden vision he has of Janet playing hide-and-seek with her daughter, a young Hope.

Confused, he breaks curfew and contacts Pym via a secret stashed phone, and before he knows it, he's involved with Hope and Pym's desperate attempts to try and save Janet from the micro universe she has been trapped in all these years. Adding to the complexity, there's also a mysterious, phase-shifting entity, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who also seems intent on getting hold of Pym's lab for its own purposes.

On the run from virtually everyone, and still trying very much to make his last weekend of incarceration before being sprung, Lang has to navigate all these treacherous waters, while also doing what he can for the Pyms to make up for putting them in such a bad situation with the Fed in the first place.

Director Peyton Reed, back for round two of the series, has a light touch, which works well with Rudd's patented off-kilter comedic delivery. The whole film adopts Rudd's sense of absurd irreverence -- an entire interrogation scene, normally playing up the menace of the villains, is spent in debate between Sonny, his chemist henchman (Divian Ladwa), Lang's security business partner Luis (Michael Pena), and his two associates (Tip 'T.I.' Harris and David Dastmalchian) on the existence of "truth serum" -- which only adds to the low-stakes tone of the affair.

It's like a deep breath after ascending a particularly long flight of stairs (maybe more of a topical reference on my part there, but stay with me), and, in keeping with Marvel's seeming Midas-like touch, is likely precisely what the moviegoing public will be ready for in the wake of the carnage of Infinity War.

That said, the film, written by a host of folks, including Rudd himself, lets itself largely off the hook when it comes to sensible plotting, a whole bunch of things happen that work out in ways that seem increasingly unlikely, and seemingly everyone ends up with much in the way of what they deserve by the end. It's all sewn up in a neat bundle, right up until the midcredit sequence (there's one at the very end as well, but absolutely nonessential), whereupon the events of the outside world creep their way into this happy enclosure.

There's much to recommend here, some inspired action bits, a few laugh-out-loud moments (as when the "truth serum" is put to Sonny near the end), and an overarching tone of entertaining fun that's pretty hard to resist. After the grim outcome of their last opus, Marvel has put out a suitable palate cleanser -- think of it as a small dish of mango sorbet -- until the next fiery main course is laid down before us.

MovieStyle on 07/06/2018

Print Headline: Ant misbehavin'; Marvel gives fans a psychological break with an irreverent, comical but action-packed adventure

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