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"ANT-MAN AND THE WASP"
(2018) (Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: An unlikely superhero -- who can change his physical size using a specialized suit -- tries to help a scientist and that man's adult daughter -- who also possesses a similar suit -- rescue their wife/mother from a subatomic Quantum Realm where she's been trapped for decades, all while fending off various villains who want their high-tech invention.
PLOT:
Decades ago, Dr. Hank Pym (MICHAEL DOUGLAS) and his wife, Janet (MICHELLE PFEIFFER), were secret superheroes known as Ant-Man and The Wasp who, thanks to specialized suits they developed and wore, could shrink down to insect size yet maintain their strength. When Janet shrank down to an even smaller size than that to enter and disable a missile in flight to save the lives of countless people, Hank assumed she perished in the subatomic world known as the Quantum Realm.

But with his successor to the Ant-Man role, Scott Lang (PAUL RUDD), having entered and then returned from that realm, Hank and his now adult daughter, Hope Van Dyne (EVANGELINE LILLY), wonder if Janet might have somehow survived and could be still living in that microscopic world. That point is brought home when Scott has a quantum encounter with Janet in his head, something that leaves Hank and Hope with mixed feelings, what with having a past falling out with Scott due to events that occurred in Germany that involved many other superheroes.

Now under house arrest, Scott tries to help run a security company with his former criminal partner, Luis (MICHAEL PENA), and their two associates, Kurt (DAVID DASTMALCHIAN) and Dave (T.I.), all while spending time with his young daughter Cassie (ABBY RYDER FORTSON), who lives with her mom, Maggie (JUDY GREER), and cop stepdad, Paxton (BOBBY CANNAVALE), but hangs out with her dad as much as possible.

Wanting to finish out his house arrest, Scott doesn't really want to get involved with Hank and Hope, but she ends up abducting him while in the guise of her superhero alter-ego, The Wasp, all of which worries Scott that FBI agent Jimmy Woo (RANDALL PARK) is going to catch him away from home and then send him away to prison for twenty years.

But he, Hope and Hank have bigger concerns as a pivotal tech device Hope tried to purchase from black market criminal Sonny Burch (WALTON GOGGINS) has now been stolen by the dimension-shifting mercenary, Ghost (HANNAH JOHN-KAMEN). Known as Ava to Hank's former S.H.I.E.L.D. partner, Dr. Bill Foster (LAURENCE FISHBURNE), who's tried to help her over the years, she suffered a molecular accident as a child and could soon disappear or die due to her affliction.

She wants that device in order to extract quantum elements from Janet, while Burch wants it simply to capitalize on what could be a lucrative market, and Hank and Hope need it to try to rescue Janet from the Quantum Realm. With a limited window where that can take place, Scott does what he can to help.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
It's often been stated that there's a fairly sizable divide between what critics are looking for and appreciate in movies vs. the same for the average moviegoer. And having been on both sides of that same viewing aisle, I can say that's a fairly accurate assessment. For the former, and since we see so many mediocre to subpar movies year after year (many of which regular viewers skip), we're often looking for something unique and thought-provoking to be found in a creative and imaginative package.

Those who don't review movies for a living might have similar movie-going needs and/or desires but for the most part the vast majority of people who go to the cineplex are looking for some degree and level of little more than entertaining escapism. Thankfully, there are certain offerings that manage to appease both sorts of moviegoers and "Ant-Man and the Wasp" certainly appears that it will fit the bill.

A follow-up to the 2015 film "Ant-Man" that served as the origins story for that lesser-known Marvel superhero character, and taking place after the events of "Captain America: Civil War" and apparently concurrently with "Avengers: Infinity War," the film -- like its predecessor - is light and nimble on its feet and provides a satisfying and highly entertaining mix of action, comedy, and characters we don't mind spending two hours with in a dark theater.

Much of that can be attributed to the approach that returning director Peyton Reed -- working from a script by Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers and Paul Rudd & Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari -- takes with the material. While most of the Marvel Comics movies have various degrees of humor in them -- some more than others -- they've also contained darker and grittier elements along with ultra hard-hitting action and high stakes. Here, all involved have opted to keep things on the lighter and funnier side (notwithstanding various thematic elements scattered among the plot), resulting in an engaging bit of popcorn escapism.

It also doesn't hurt that the cast -- which is fairly large considering this isn't the typical Marvel cross-over effort with Iron Man and the like showing up for character and story support -- is fully engaged with the notion of pulling the viewer along for the entertaining ride. Not surprisingly -- considering his first outing as the title character and work in other films -- Paul Rudd is the key to making this work and he does so with seemingly effortless aplomb. Charming and with a self-deprecating sense of both self and humor, he's fun to behold from start to finish, whether interacting with his young daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) or his fellow former criminal buddy turned business partner (Michael Pena).

The film also offers up two sets of villains, one the sort of standard type (played by Walton Goggins) who's simply after money, and the other (Hannah John-Kamen) who is understandably trying to stay alive. Both are trying to get their hands on a device that will give them access to the so-called Quantum Realm where the first incarnation of The Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer) has supposedly been trapped for decades following a self-sacrificial act to save others (that occurs in the film's set-in-the-past opening sequence).

Her now grown-up daughter (Evangeline Lilly), who's taken over her titular superhero persona, likewise wants that device in hopes that she and her scientist father (Michael Douglas) will be able to use that to free their mom/wife from that realm. All of which means Rudd's character will have to step back into action despite being under house arrest -- due to what happened in "Captain America: Civil War" -- and having had a falling out with the father-daughter duo.

Throw in an FBI agent (Randall Park) who's trying to nab our title character breaking his house arrest rules and another scientist (Laurence Fishburne) who had a past falling out with his former colleague (Douglas) and is now helping the second villain listed above, and it might sound like that's more than enough and maybe even too many characters and subplots for this sort of film.

Yet all involved handle it with such ease that you don't really notice the crowded playing field and instead simply sit back and watch the engaging and entertaining film play out. An enjoyable bit of escapist entertainment that should appease both critics and regular moviegoers alike, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" rates as a 7 out of 10.




Reviewed June 26, 2018 / Posted July 6, 2018


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