“I do some dumb things, and the people I love the most – they pay the price.”
Ant-Man and the Wasp is funny and entertaining in the same ways that you’re instantly amused by your favorite Uncle. It’s quick, it has a hefty bag of one-liners, the scale of the material feels like a practiced routine performed in the moment while reading the room. He’s the guy who lightens a holiday party by singing a self-written song, cracking a joke, crunching his abs at the hilarity of his own comedy skit. When it sticks to this territory, a place that’s relatable and observed (that especially goes for Marvel here after the gargantuan events of Infinity War), Ant-Man and the Wasp sows our torn-up insides with stitches. The drama and the villains can be a bit clumsy to say the least, but I could care less about a flawed story world when the comedy bits are this hilariously energizing.
As the title implies, there’s more to this endeavor than just Scott Lang / Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), finishing off the last few days of his two-year stint on house arrest. He was in trouble after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War for violating the Sokovia Accords, government sanctioned legal documents which, to be honest, come across as tedious and too convenient. The film dawdles around with this point for too long and begins with an extremely abrupt flashback to the days of the original Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) trying to save thousands, resulting in her being lost to the Quantam Realm for decades. If it doesn’t sound all that interesting, it’s probably because it really isn’t.
Where the film gets good is when it allows the weight of its past to be lost at the baggage claim, finally taking flight with a style and a sense of humor completely unique to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Dr. Pym and his daughter Violet (Evangeline Lilly), now a badass superhero in her own right, are furious with Scott for abusing their trust. Scott wants to right his wrongs without violating his parole and face 20 years behind bars. Ant-Man and the Wasp might be the most personal Marvel film to date, confining itself to the hills of San Francisco, and even when the story does go “big,” it’s actually quite literally going as small as possible. I loved this year’s Avengers: Infinity War because it allowed me to be swept away in galactic catastrophe. By comparison, I really admire Ant-Man 2 because it cheerfully tucks us in with an old-school rescue mission for a bedtime story.
I didn’t care for the first Ant-Man film. Just watching it, you could tell that the baby had been passed around so many times that it was covered in a thousand fingerprints. The script was clumsy, the villain was vanilla, and the film never really found a tonal rhythm. Some of these same hiccups happen here, although far less obviously. As previously mentioned, the opening is rather awkward (the de-aging CGI work for Douglas and Pfeiffer, a move I normally hate, really does look good though). Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if the movie wants to be serious or farcical. But my main gripe is with the antagonistic angle. Black market businessman Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) adds body but no flavor. Then there’s Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), a young woman who goes by Ghost because she can dematerialize. She wants Dr. Pym’s tech to heal her own pain, Burch embodies corporate greed by wanting to sell Pym’s entire lab to the highest bidder. Both of these villains have motivation, but because the evil-doing is spread between them, there’s very little purpose. It’s a 2 for 1 special that doesn’t amount to enough sustenance.
Ant-Man and the Wasp overcomes this dead weight when it embodies and exploits the eccentricity of the powers that these two superheroes have. The hand-to-hand combat is remarkable and the chase scenes endlessly inventive. Director Peyton Reed delivers big-time on the crucial set pieces, cutting the tension with jokes and laughter, all while manufacturing some of the most hilarious bits I’ve ever seen in a Marvel film. Rudd knows how to be funny off the cuff, but the best moments are when the picture combines imagination with physical comedy, providing a means of laughing with the characters instead of at them. Ant-Man and the Wasp is another solid entry for Marvel, using sleight of hand to make this film feel small when, as you think back on its shifting scale, it’s somehow able to feel so big as well.
“Relationships are built on trust.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5