The Bock’s Office: ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ has tiny flair to spare
In an ongoing movie franchise that continues to think bigger and bolder, it’s nice to see that they can still get the small things right. Such is the case of “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is feeling antsy, but not in the way you might think.
It’s been a long while since the reformed criminal donned the Ant-Man suit, and he’s been paying for it ever since, serving a house arrest term under the watchful eye of an overeager FBI agent (Randall Park) looking to nab Scott’s former associates, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who have been on the run.
Even with his circumstances less than ideal, Scott’s improved relationship with his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) and a thriving security company mean his life is on its way to being better than ever.
But, things can’t stay simple, as Hank and Hope show up at the worst possible time, demanding Scott’s help with something only he can do — assist them in reaching the quantum realm, where Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) has been stuck for decades.
A complicated plan to enter the microscopic world only gets stickier when they attract the attention of a greedy crime go-between (Walton Goggins) and a mysterious entity known only as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), both of which will seize the trio’s equipment at any cost.
Rudd is hard not to like even as he remains the player on the Marvel Comics superhero roster who most seems like he has no business getting involved in the heavy stuff. Luckily, most of his charm comes from his near-incompetence with the science involved, as well as a newly updated but malfunctioning size-altering suit that won’t let him keep his usual physique for long.
To be fair, nobody can adjust well from having a height that can be measured in inches to suddenly to shooting up to 12 feet or more.
She may have second billing, but Lilly ably makes up for lost time from the initial film as the woman going by the code name Wasp with a shrink suit flanked with wings and stingers — thanks, Pop — and altogether better fighting skills than her partner.
As the first Ant-Man who’s never exactly retired, Douglas has a stronger purpose in this installment as a guy looking to right the wrongs of yesteryear by rescuing his long-lost love, which admittedly is made easier when you have a headquarters that can be condensed to suitcase size and a Hot Wheels carrying case of actual cars.
Also, don’t ask him what’s in his Altoids tin…
Michael Peña has a good showing as Scott’s motor-mouth business partner in X-Con — Get it? — while Laurence Fishburne adds some weight as Hank’s former colleague Bill Foster, who’s more interested in making things larger than smaller, though we never get to see where the project Goliath gets its name.
Likewise, John-Kamen makes something out of what little she has as the psychologically unbalanced young woman who keeps popping up at inopportune times for our heroes, desperate to access their technology not to increase her powers of intangibility but merely to stay alive.
The initial “Ant-Man” had a baddie who could not have been more cliché, so for its sequel to have a series of antagonists but no true villain feels like a lateral move for a title that still hasn’t quite managed to click with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And, yes, that includes Groot.
Nevertheless, being the oddball of the bunch has its perks as director Peyton Reed makes wonderfully wacky choices in action and humor as Scott and Hope zip and zigzag along in their adventures, which are twice as nice when it’s a dynamic duo like this, all apologies to Batman and Robin.
A man-sized ant that lives large while serving part of Scott’s house arrest sentence is only part of the size gags that also includes a good nod to the classic creature feature “Them!” as a one-of-a-kind drive-in theater.
For that matter, a story that captures the tricky dynamic between daughters and dads is astonishingly effective, and whether your father called you Peanut or Jelly Bean, you’ve got to love a daddy who crafts a labyrinth of ant tunnels out of cardboard.
The only thing better is a dad who spends half his life creating a machine to break into a tinier-than-tiny dimension, but it’s not a competition.
The summer began with “Infinity War” and moves on to the infinitesimal, but “Ant-Man and the Wasp” fills in the gaps nicely as the Marvel arc surges along for years to come.
As if you need to be told by now, do not leave your seat early. Don’t make us sic the ants on you.