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Thursday, July 5, 2018 12:04 am

Breezy Ant-Man and the Wasp is great fun

 

After the Sturm und Drang of Avengers: Infinity War, Peyton Reed’s lighthearted and breezy Ant-Man and the Wasp comes off as an effective palette cleanser. While the titular heroes face their share of dangerous situations, there’s never the sense that either will wind up on a slab or end up disintegrating into thin air. No, this is the closest thing you’ll get to a screwball comedy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s a welcome entry as it effectively reminds us that, more than anything, these films are supposed to be fun.

Reed and his collection of writers (five contributed to the screenplay) use their wayback machine as the events in the film occur after Captain America: Civil War but before Infinity War. Our hard-luck hero, Scott Lang (the ever-charming Paul Rudd), is on house arrest for breaking parole (leaving the country to help the Avengers in Civil was a big no-no), and he’s on the outs with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) for having stolen their technology and forcing them to go on the run. However, he gets back into their good graces when he tells them he had a very realistic dream involving Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), and the pair posit that while he was in the quantum realm (see Ant-Man), the matriarch of the Pym clan made a psychic connection with him, hoping to send an SOS that she’s still alive in this microscopic world where she disappeared years ago. The three pull out all the stops to get the tech that will be necessary to rescue her.

This mission would be more than enough for any film but Reed and company aren’t satisfied with one main plot – they tack on three subplots; some necessary, others not so much. Turns out corporate tool Sonny Burch (a wasted Walton Goggins) wants the technology the Pyms possess and are after them; a mysterious villain named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who has a hard time maintaining a solid state, is after the same thing; Lang’s three hapless buddies Luis, Dave and Kurt (Michael Pena, T.I. and David Dastmalchian) are trying to start their own security business and at one point end up with the gizmo everyone is looking for; and Federal Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) is constantly on Lang’s tail trying to bust him for breaking his house arrest.

There are a lot of moving parts here – too many, quite frankly – and there’s a sense that some of these shenanigans are there simply to pad the running time. Still, the charm of the two leads and the inventive visual gags that run throughout are never less than goofily entertaining. Small objects become big (and vice versa) at the most opportune times. The button on Lang’s suit regulates his height malfunctions throughout, leaving him in states of embarrassing smallness and awkward hugeness, which leads to big laughs, while the fact that Hope is always two or three steps ahead of him and must put him in his place is constantly amusing. Equally funny is Pena, who recreates one of his stream-of-conscious tangential anecdotes – this time under the influence of truth serum – a showstopper in the best of ways. Finally, a sight gag involving a Hot Wheels carrying case will generate effortless grins from viewers of a certain generation.

There’s never a doubt as to the outcome of the movie, and that’s fine; the fact that the villain is sympathetic is a welcome change. Fans will get an answer as to where the titular duo was during the cataclysmic Infinity War, and this will have a definite bearing on the events of Avengers 4. More than anything, Ant-Man and Wasp provide a dose of goofy fun that’s much needed in this summer of retreads and features that take themselves a bit too seriously.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at koplinski@usd116.org.

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