Movie review: 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' a super sequel
Paul Rudd returns as the sub-atomic superhero in this extremely efficient Marvel roller coaster
Tiny hero. Big fun.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp" succeeds the way you want a Marvel movie to succeed. It is irreverent, good-natured and self-aware, and it knows its limitations and works within them. Some Marvel movies attempt to put the weight of the world on their shoulders. "Ant-Man" doesn't try to carry any more than its small frame can handle.
Within that framework, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" is an efficient, bang-for-your-buck thrill machine. Director Peyton Reed, working from a script credited to five writers — including star Paul Rudd — spends the first hour setting up a half-dozen storylines and the last hour paying them off, in one extended set piece that bobs and weaves like a prize fighter in peak form. April's "Avengers: Infinity War" tried to pack so much into its running time that by the end you felt like you had just run a marathon. "Ant-Man and the Wasp," comparatively, is a sprightly, jog around the neighborhood that leaves you feeling refreshed.
Rudd returns as Scott Lang, who when the movie opens is under house arrest due to his participation in the events that unfolded during "Captain America: Civil War." (That explains his absence from "Infinity War" — that, and that movie was already bursting at the seams with characters and storylines; it's too bad the Guardians of the Galaxy weren't under house arrest for "Infinity War," too.) S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) is on Lang's case, making sure he serves every last minute of his house arrest, while Lang is trying to keep from going stir crazy by turning his San Francisco home into an elaborate playhouse for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson).
Meanwhile, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has found a way to potentially rescue his wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the sub-atomic realm where she was lost years earlier during an experiment gone awry. He'll need the help of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), the newly outfitted Wasp, along with Lang. Double meanwhile, a baddie by the name of Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) has a beef with Pym; greasy, scheming criminal Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins, whose Wikipedia page links to both greasy and scheming) is looking to get his hands on Pym technology; and Lang's pal Luis (Michael Peña) is hanging around the periphery, trying to get his security business up and running.
That's a lot to stuff into a small package — and that's not even mentioning characters played by Laurence Fishburne, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer and rapper T.I. — but "Ant-Man and the Wasp" manages to feel compact even as it threatens to explode. That's because it takes place in its own contained world and isn't concerned with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large, and therefore is free to move at its own speed. And Reed is able to balance everything with self-effacing humor, which manages to have a laugh at the pseudo-scientific speak of superhero films ("do you guys just put 'quantum' in front of everything?" Lang deadpans after a string of references to the quantum realm, quantum entanglement and quantum anomalies) without ever dipping into the self-loathing, why-are-we-even-here?-style humor of "Thor: Ragnarok."
Rudd, who at 49 still looks 29, is well-suited to the role of Lang; you wouldn't buy him as Captain America or the Hulk, but darned if he isn't just the guy to play a third-string superhero who is deceptively powerful, who shrinks down to the size of an atom before blowing up to the size of Godzilla. "Ant-Man" is geared toward his sensibilities the way "Iron Man" is built around Robert Downey Jr.'s, and Rudd is the reason "Ant-Man and the Wasp" goes down as easy as it does. It's an enjoyably slight superhero vehicle, which — back before superhero movies had to take on the world and all of its problems — is what superhero movies were supposed to be.
'Ant-Man and the Wasp'
Rated PG-13: for some sci-fi action violence
Running time: 125 minutes