‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is clever and entertaining

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Comedian Steve Martin’s debut album “Let’s Get Small” (1977) was a gigantic hit. As we discovered more recently in “Ant-Man” (2015), less can still be more. Now, Marvel Studio’s twentieth film, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” features the return of Paul Rudd (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) and Evangeline Lilly (“The Hobbit”) as wee little super-heroes.

Returning director Peyton Reed and his team of five writers decided this time to go big or go home. Now, Scott Lang, whose alter-ego is Ant-Man and Hope Van Dyne who is the Wasp (Wasp-Woman?) can either shrink or grow themselves at will. Behind the technology is Hope’s father, Dr. Hank Pym (Oscar winner Michael Douglas).

This sequel is clever, mildly entertaining and amusing, but the original was innovative, charming and hilarious. We enjoyed both, but the prior chapter was far superior. In this feature, we did enjoy the ginormous as well as minuscule set pieces. There were sufficient action scenes and likeable characters, a pleasant Saturday matinee.

In the aftermath of ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ Scott copes with the consequences of his choices as both a super-hero and a father. Under house arrest, he wears an ankle bracelet while law enforcement is only too eager to put him away should he violate parole. His ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her husband Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) could take Scott’s daughter away should he make a mistake.

Scott struggles to re-balance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, “I do some dumb things and the people I love the most pay the price.” Nevertheless, Hope and Dr. Pym ask Scott to suit up for battle again. He reluctantly agrees to fight alongside The Wasp for the greater good. Although there is some quantum physics involved, these super-insects are thankfully not in the business of saving the universe.

Walton Goggins (“The Hateful Eight”) has made a career playing memorable villains. Goggins establishes his “cred” just by entering the scene. Here, as Sonny Burch, he seeks the technology that Pym needs to save his wife. Goggins will stop at nothing to win his prize. Meanwhile Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), aka “The Ghost” seeks the same device in order to reverse her deteriorating condition.

The characters are charismatic and the prevalent inventive set pieces, that transform from big to small and back again, are phenomenal. In a minor plot point, a nice touch of technology features Dr. Pym (Douglas), his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their colleague Dr. Foster (Laurence Fishburne) with facial features thirty years younger.

Scott’s friend Luis (Michael Pena) and his friends in low places offer plucky comic relief, which made us grin, but not many chuckles or outright laughs. Paul Rudd is perfectly cast in the lead while Evangeline Lilly is delightful as the Wasp. It’s nice to see the marvelous Michelle Pfeiffer again and Michael Douglas is a solid veteran.

Douglas suggested his real wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones for the role of his on-screen wife, while Evangeline Lilly suggested Michelle Pfeiffer, who was selected. It could appear the once all-powerful Douglas has completely lost his Hollywood clout. Here, he’s playing second (actually third) banana in a minor comic book movie and unable to score a role for his movie star wife. What goes around…well, you know.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is 118 minutes and rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence. The title “Little Big Man” was already taken, so this was probably the next best thing. For those keeping score, this is Chapter Eight of Phase Three in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and sets up “Agents of Atlas” coming soon to a theater near you.

Marvel hoped for the audience to stream in like ants at a picnic, be we were somewhat disappointed. It’s a small world after all, so this action-adventure may still be highly entertaining for children of all ages. It shows that good things come in small packages. We’re just grateful Ant-Man is never asked, “So, how’s the little woman?”

Ron’s Rating: C+
Leigh’s Rating: C+

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Ron & Leigh Martel