Entertainment

‘Ant-Man’ Isn’t the Dud We Feared

Unlikely hero continues Marvel's hot streak

On paper, the only direction for Marvel Studios to go at this point is down.

Only “Ant-Man” isn’t the dud we feared from those clunky trailers or the project’s directorial switcheroo. Instead, it’s a frothy blend of action and humor, crafted on a suitably smaller scale. It’s a costumed palette cleanser after “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” a movie so big it barely fit on those Imax screens.

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“Ant Man’s” pleasures are modest but undeniable. Parents tempted to bring their kiddies to see this miniature hero won’t find a crush of inappropriate violence or humor. It’s as relatively mild as a PG:13 movie can be, save a young child in brief peril and a death that leaves only a jelly-sized stain in its wake.

Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, hardly anyone’s idea of a hero. He just got out of prison and can’t even keep a job at an ice cream joint. He’s desperate to avoid more jail time in order to see his pre-teen daughter. Jail taught him one thing: Being a parent is all that matters now.

“Ant-Man” reminds us the source material is, after all, a comic book.

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Scott’s fortunes change when he reluctantly agrees to burglarize a millionaire’s home in a desperate bid for cash. Said mansion belongs to Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who once created a formula to shrink people to the size of an ant while retaining the power of a 200 lb. adult.

Turns out Dr. Pym has had an eye on Scott, leading to a curious offer. Hank wants Scott to douse himself in his chemical compound and become … the Ant-Man. Hank’s former colleague (Corey Stoll) wants to use the technology for nefarious purposes, and only an ant-sized thief can stop that from happening.for-teens

Yes, there’s lip service paid to Scott saving the world, but everything about “Ant-Man” looks to ramp down superhero excess. There’s even a great sight gag involving toy trains that kills in the movie’s third act.

Scott himself isn’t eager to be a superhero. Hank’s suspicious daughter (Evangeline Lilly) agrees. She thinks she should be the one shrinking down to save the day, not Scott.

Many super-films go for grit, not primary colors. “Ant-Man” reminds us the source material is, after all, a comic book. Rudd’s humorous resume comes in handy here, but the film’s scene stealer turns out to be Michael Pena as a kind-hearted crook. antman_thumb

“Ant-Man” basks in the main character’s redemption, a grace note ladled out in the proper measurements. The same can be said of the action, which makes the most of the shrinking/growing shtick without leaving audiences overwhelmed.

Rudd may have punched his ticket to the A-list with “Ant-Man.” He’s not just as funny as needed. He’s an Everyman who can throw a punch, an accidental hero willing to sacrifice himself for others. And Rudd forges a bond with his on-screen daughter despite their limited screen time.

Will “Ant-Man” earn as much as the more popular Marvel franchises? We’ll soon find out. If the film’s second of two post-credit scenes is any indication we’ll be seeing Ant-Man again long before a possible sequel.

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