Courtesy: Marvel Studios

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'Ant-Man and the Wasp' Is a Movie of Teensy Pleasures

One good thing you can say about Ant-Man and the Wasp: It knows its place. The unapologetic David in the Marvel Universe’s gallery of Goliaths, Ant-Man—as he’s been written and played with boyish, off-handed sarcasm and charm by Paul Rudd—is a penny-ante crook and con artist with loads of charm but the silliest superpowers (he can shrink and get large, big whoop) imaginable. Compared to Thor, Iron Man or the Hulk, though, the super-compact crime buster is a dust mite, although a crazy strong one.

Three years ago, with the fast, flippant Ant-Man, the incredible shrinking man seemed like a big ol’ blast of fresh air. By comparison, the sequel’s goodies are practically microscopic. This time out, we’ve got post-Captain America: Civil War divorced dad Scott Lang (Rudd) being punished under the final days of his house arrest, where he whiles away his hours slipping and sliding through elaborate fort games with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), practicing card tricks from online videos and lip-synching to the theme from The Partridge Family.

Meanwhile, under the ever-watchful eye of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), Lang has not only had to stay clear of his jail-mate buddy Luis (Michael Peña, funny as hell) but also super physicist Hank Pym (nice, grumpy work from Michael Douglas), Lang’s ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. mentor; and daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly)—the crush-worthy, lovably spiky Wasp herself, this time tricked-out with a cool suit and hummingbird-like wings. The still-grieving Hank and Hope have unearthed the Big Secret that Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who sacrificed herself to defuse a bomb, isn’t dead at all but has been miniaturized and trapped for decades in a visually trippy but deadly world called the Quantum Realm.

To help rescue Janet, the O.W. (Original Wasp), they practically kidnap Lang. “Do you really just put the word quantum ahead of everything?” Lang asks in one of flick's funniest lines. Thwarting their quest is a skeevy Southern munitions expert and black-market tech trader (Walton Goggins) and the thieving but sympathetic Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), whose ability to slip or “phase” through any solid object causes her constant pain and agony and who, for the murkiest of plot reasons, needs to kill Janet to cure herself. What? Meanwhile, Ghost’s substitute dad Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) wants vengeance on his old S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague Hank, whom he blames for the failed lab experiment that created Ghost’s freakish afflictions.

Paul Rudd is resourceful, self-deprecating and capable of making the most of the thinnest material.

Director Peyton Reed wisely treats the unwieldy plot, credited to five screenwriters (including Rudd), as a throwaway because when he gives over the movie to team-building and butt-kicking with Ant-Man, Wasp, Luis, Kurt (scene-grabbing David Dasmaltchian) and company, things finally bubble over with subversive energy and smart silliness. Amid all the boring tech talk, callbacks to previous Marvel outings and repetitive action sequences, try sitting through Peña’s long, demented riff on truth serum, or Dasmaltchian’s spin on Baba Yaga, without cracking up.

Rudd is, as always, resourceful, self-deprecating and capable of making the most of the thinnest material. And the post-credit sequence ties it all up with Avengers: Infinity War in a way that had preview audiences buzzing. So, the enjoyably unpretentious, inconsequential, low-stakes Ant-Man and the Wasp may be a movie of teensy pleasures—one of them being that it moves quickly at 112 minutes. But after the apocalyptic gloom of Infinity War, it entertains enough in sprints that make one hope that the next installment might be better.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Pros
Viewers will get a buzz from the charismatic cast and those wacky comedic bits
Cons
The film might quickly disappear from your memory with the speed of a fast-moving insect
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 bunnies

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