[Screen It]


(2015) (Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas) (PG-13)

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Action: An ex-con agrees to become an unlikely, size-shifting superhero and help stop a high tech inventor from selling an invention that allows people and equipment to be shrunken down to miniature proportions and used for military purposes.
Scott Lang (PAUL RUDD) has just gotten out of prison for cat burglary and doesn't want any part of a new sure-fire plan his friend and fellow ex-con, Luis (MICHAEL PENA), has cooked up with his friends, Kurt (DAVID DASTMALCHIAN) and Dave (T.I.). And that's because he doesn't want to spend any more time away from his young daughter, Cassie (ABBY RYDER FORTSON), who's moved with her mother, Maggie (JUDY GREER) into the home of the latter's cop fiancé, Paxton (BOBBY CANNAVALE).

But when Scott's record results in him being unable to find or hold onto a job, he agrees to Luis' plan, and that involves breaking into an old man's safe. They succeed, but all Scott finds is a weird motorcycle type suit and helmet. He initially thinks that's a bust, but is shocked to discover that once he dons it and activates a special button, it reduces him down to ant size. He's also surprised to learn that it belongs to Dr. Hank Pym (MICHAEL DOUGLAS), an inventor who was forced out of the company he created, not only by his one-time protégé, Darren Cross (COREY STOLL), but also his own daughter, Hope (EVANGELINE LILLY).

But she's now concerned that Darren is getting too close to figuring out and deploying her father's long-hidden molecular shrinking invention (where people can be miniaturized to ant-size but maintain their normal-sized strength), including selling it to shady government types who'd like to use it as a military weapon. Needing to infiltrate his former headquarters, Hank refuses to allow Hope to use the suit to do so -- considering what happened to his wife in the past -- and thus offers to keep Scott from being returned to jail if he'll do the work for him.

Initially reluctant, Scott finally agrees and starts training, not only with Hope, but also a number of ants he's now able to control via electronically induced telepathy. With their help and that of Luis and his friends, Scott prepares to do the job, unaware that he might have to battle the villainous and similarly size-shifting Yellowjacket in the process.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Suspension of disbelief is often a strong requirement of certain movies, particularly those in the sci-fi, horror and action genres. That's especially true with the latter when it comes to superhero movies. After all, while we know that space travel has been achieved and psychotic murderers live among us, we don't often come across people who are "faster than a speeding bullet."

Or who turn into huge green monsters, fly around in iron suits, turn into human flames or shrink down to insect size. Yet, we go along for the ride and usually enjoy the antics of said MARVELous (and other) characters, both those ultra familiar with the masses and others mostly known only to diehard comics fans.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" proved the latter group could breakout to the general public, and while it might not reach quite such lofty box office numbers, I believe "Ant-Man" could do something similar, even if the old SoD needs another application or two to make it work.

The character likely isn't high on the average moviegoer's recognition list, but this pint-sized figure (actually ant-sized is far more accurate) has been around for half a century or so, what with being one of the original founding members of "The Avengers." Unlike others who later joined the group, however, he didn't get his own series and thus never achieved instant name recognition.

That should change after this offering that, like "Guardians" from last year, proves that audiences have an appetite for superhero films with a cheeky sense of humor (rather than the greater focus on smashing everything up or being too solemn and serious). Yes, this is a -- appropriately enough -- smaller scale type of superhero flick that thankfully never takes itself too seriously and isn't interested in bashing characters through buildings and streets like an out of control video game.

In fact, it sports something of an old-fashioned veneer that makes it both appealing and easy to swallow. And that's despite me never quite buying into the fact that the miniaturized man in the suit still somehow retains his normal sized strength and is able to essentially fly and zip through the air to battle villains. Yet, I had no problem believing the instant shrinking and expanding physicality of said character. Go figure...the wonders of what works and doesn't in our minds regarding suspension of disbelief.

Speaking of just that, the film opens with a scene set in 1989 where a young (or at least younger looking) version of Michael Douglas is seen as the inventor of the shrink-swell capability. The story then quickly jumps to the present day where he's an older man, long-since kicked out of his own company by his former protégé (Corey Stoll) and his own, but now estranged adult daughter (Evangeline Lilly).

Hank knows that Cross is up to no good and getting closer to recreating his invention. Accordingly, he wants a new man to don his Ant suit, sneak into his old headquarters, and give it the old Raid treatment. No, it's not going to be a picnic (although no rubber tree plants will be involved), but Hank believes a recently released cat burglar (Paul Rudd) seems like the correct candidate.

And since Scott wants to avoid a return to the pen, he reluctantly agrees to Hank's plan, especially so that he can see his young daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) who's moved in with her mom (Judy Greer) into the home owned by the latter's fiancé (Bobby Cannavale) who just so happens to be a cop who looks down on Scott.

There's nothing that new in this latest origins story, but the script -- by Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish & Adam McKay & Paul Rudd -- throws plenty of fun moments into the mix, while director Peyton Reed (who took over for Wright) keeps things moving at a lively pace, more than capably mixing the action and comedy together. And you certainly can't go wrong with casting the always likeable everyman Rudd who fits the bill to a T.

While it certainly doesn't possess the depth and polish of say, "The Dark Knight," match the level of weird and quirky fun as present in "Guardians" or be the near perfect cinematic adaptation like 1978's version of "Superman," "Ant-Man" is quite fun, funny and entertaining in its own right. Just slather on the suspension of disbelief and go along for the ride. The film rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed July 13, 2015 / Posted July 17, 2015

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