"Ant Man and the Wasp" - ★ ★ ★ ½
This has to be the nuttiest, most ridiculous and best-executed superhero comedy in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or any other superhero cinematic universe.
(I'm looking at you, DC Comics.)
Marvel's "Ant-Man and the Wasp" moves fleetly at Flash speed, creating a gleefully insectuous relationship between mind-boggling visual effects (second only to those in the Oscar-nominated "Doctor Strange"), Reed-Richards-smart dialogue and a reluctant superhero with an endearing, self-effacing charm not seen since Christopher Reeve donned his tights as "Superman."
Director Peyton Reed (he gave us the underrated Rock Hudson/Doris Day spoof "Down with Love" and the racially aware sports underdog story "Bring It On") introduced us to Paul Rudd's Scott Lang as "Ant Man" in 2015.
That superhero tale exuded giddy fun, despite being Reed's rough and disjointed first effort at directing a special-effects-dominated Marvel epic.
In "Ant-Man and the Wasp," Reed gets the bugs out with a buoyant and balanced fantastic fantasy in which high-rise buildings reduce to suitcase size, Hot Wheels cars pop up to human proportions, PEZ dispensers can be used as weapons, and Rudd's great Scott constantly articulates what we, the audience, are thinking at any given moment.
("Do you really just put the word quantum ahead of everything?" he asks scientists who put the word "quantum" ahead of everything they say.)
Mercifully, the "Ant-Man and the Wasp" plot doesn't revolve around saving the universe, planet Earth, or Golden Gate Bridge from imminent destruction.
Scott agrees to help Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), aka The Wasp, and physicist (plus former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) Dr. Hank Pym (reprised by a hilariously curmudgeonly Michael Douglas) rescue his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm, the subatomic world where she's been trapped for 30 years after diffusing a bomb.
But more important to Scott, he goes all out to be the best single dad he can be for his adorable young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston), creating cardboard castles and Goonies-like escape chutes, even singing along with her to "The Partridge Family" theme song. Now that's daddy dedication.
Scott's plans get hampered by the ankle bracelet he wears as part of his house arrest sentence for doing something illegal in Germany when he helped the Avengers out of a tight spot or two.
Somehow, he must ditch the bracelet without arousing the suspicions of federal agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park, perfecting the art of deadpan comic relief).
Once in action and on the run, Scott receives substantial comic support from manic sidekick Luis (Chicago native Michael Peña), Scott's former cellmate and now his partner in their security consultant business, X-Con.
Reed's delightful, ceaselessly engaging piece of X-Men-rated nonsense also includes Walton Goggins as sleazy Sonny Burch, a black market dealer for high-tech commodities, plus Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost, a vengeful lab accident victim now on the verge of fading out of existence because of her uncontrolled phasing through walls and objects.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp" runs nearly two hours, but its merry mix of deft one-liners, visual gags, restrained action sequences (consider it the anti-"Avengers: Infinity War") and subatomic protoplasmic spectacle never drags, especially with Rudd's witty, confident performance as Ant-Man, easily lifting 5,000 times his own dramatic weight.
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Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne, Hannah John-Kamen
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Other: A Walt Disney Pictures release. Rated PG-13 for violence. 118 minutes