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Review: Ant-Man Delivers With Many Strong Performances

I will admit to having superhero movie fatigue. With the just so-so Avengers: Age of Ultron hitting the screens a few months back, I could go another year or two without seeing another one and be just fine (except for Daredevil Season 2 next year on Netflix – I’ll be watching, except for the violent scenes). So it is with that fatigue that I went to Ant-Man, not expecting too much. I am a big Paul Rudd fan, and was interested to see how he would play Scott Lang/Ant-Man. Ant-Man surprised me at being a very enjoyable film, but I felt the weakest link was Rudd, who didn’t utilize his usual charisma to the fullest.

Scott Lang (Rudd) is leaving prison as the movie begins. There is startling violence at the beginning which isn’t very heavy violence, but it made me jump a bit. It isn’t indicative of the entire film. Overall, Ant-Man earns its PG-13 rating and not more in that category.

Lang was incarcerated for theft, and doesn’t want to go back to prison. He has a daughter he loves, and wants to be able to set his life straight, earn an honest living and spend time with her. Unfortunately, he has problems finding a job and ends up at Baskin Robbins. But apparently even Baskin Robbins will find you out eventually, and he gets sacked. Judy Greer plays his ex-wife Maggie in a role that is very similar to her turn in Jurassic World. She lets Lang know that he can see his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson, who is wonderful in the part) if he turns his life around. Turning his life around entails getting a job, paying child support and owning an apartment. Everything that Lang does in the movie is for this end. He is thwarted as well by Maggie’s boyfriend Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), a police officer who has no love for Lang. While Lang wants to do the right thing, his friend Luis (Michael Peña) wants him to take on one sure job.

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has problems of his own. He founded Pym Technologies, but was forced out of the company by Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, who steals much of the movie). Hank Pym had designed a suit with technology that could shrink the person wearing it down to the size of an ant. Pym has a relationship with the ant species, an “ant whisperer” of sorts. And he wants Lang to don the suit, so much so that he sets a trap for Lang to find it. Pym begins the film as his younger (Michael Douglas) self, which is a bit freaky.

Stoll has been using the miniaturization technology for villainous purposes, and Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) has had a quite rocky relationship with her father, and seems devoted to Cross until she starts seeing what he is up to (in a scene that has to do with a lamb). Stoll eventually becomes the Yellow Jacket, providing a nemesis for Ant-Man. There is a lengthy battle scene at the end that includes Thomas the Tank Engine.

It is hard to say a lot more without bringing heavy spoilers into the mix. The Marvel Universe is much bigger than Ant-Man, and that plays into it. Even if you find the beginning slow, there is a good payoff at the end. Stay through the entire credits.

I listened for comments yesterday after the film, and all I heard were positive. And my thoughts on Rudd were not shared by most of those who carpooled with us to the film. But I stand by my feelings that Rudd just came off a little too ordinary, a little too dull. It isn’t what I expect from him, I would have liked to see him use his humor more. Think Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy, who was an ordinary guy, edgy and funny. He did a great job balancing all of those (and Rudd has that same capability). Ant-Man offers some very funny moments, but Peña is the one who often delivers them. I did like the film much better than Avengers: Age of Ultron, and look forward to a future film in the franchise.

For young kids, the film may be too intense.

Ant-Man is rated PG 13.

Mousesteps grade: B