Ant-Man is an engagingly decent entry into the Marvel/Disney Studios lexicon, fitting comfortably between “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor: The Dark World” and with the hero’s inclusion in the upcoming third Avengers picture, should build its status immeasurably. It also allows another actor with no action status, Paul Rudd, to cut his teeth on such a genre (after all, who remembers Liam Neesom before “Taken”).
Here, as directed by light-hearted, comedy specialist Peyton Reed (“Bring It On,” “The Break-Up,” “Yes Man”) from a script credited to Edgar Wright, Adam McKay, Joe Cornish and Paul Rudd (who also stars as the title character), the tale is told of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, Academy Award winner for “Wall Street” who is seen as his current old self and as a Photoshopped 1980s stud) and his protege, Scott Lang (Rudd, “All is Bright”). Well, not exactly your typical protege, in that the two do not really know each other, but Pym needs the super cat burglar to retrieve miniature technology developed by Pym’s actual former protege, Dr. Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, “Non-Stop”).
Evidently, shrinking oneself to the size of an insect has some bad side effects which Pym alludes to, but never really explains (except for the fact his wife keept shrinking until she became “sub-atomic,” whatever that means). So, to stop Cross, he persuades Lang to put on his old suit (which the latter cleverly steals from an unbreakable safe), break into Tony Stark’s laboratory (the first of many Marvel/Avengers allusions) and finally to steal Cross’ very own super suit technology.
Lang agrees to this nonsense because he’s down on his luck to the point where he has spent time in prison, sees his ex-wife, Maggie (Judy Greer, “Jurassic World”) marry a gruff cop, Paxton (Bobby Cannavale, “Spy”), loses every job he has and cannot even see his cute-as-a-button daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). Of course, since he has no action hero experience, a super montage is necessary with Pym’s estranged daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”), doing the honors and beating the snot out of him at the same time. You see, she’s ticked because she wanted to don the suit and save the day, but she’s a girl, so . . .
Lang is also aided by three idiots, Luis (Michael Peña, “Fury”), David (T.I., better known as Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr., “Get Hard”) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian, “Prisoners”), who help in his “Mission: Impossible”-like heist activities. While trying to retrieve these entities, Lang, or Ant-Man by now, gets to battle minor new Avenger, Falcon (Anthony Mackie, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) and then Cross’s alter ego, Yellowjacket. And since miniaturization is the whole schtick of Ant-Man, we get to gee Marvel’s famous and often seamless special effects, this time dealing with the world of bugs the size of elephants, carpet fibers like great stalks of corn and an army of various ants that help Lang defeat as many bad guys as possible. There is also a repeated tactic of him shrinking and then enlarging all the while having the strength of 50 ants or 50 Paul Rudds, whatever, and battling the forces of evil to a relative standstill.
He even gets to ride on a flying model he names, “Antony” (get it?!), but the children in 1988’s “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” were the first to accomplish that feat. This film also gets revisited when small objects are enlarged if nothing if not for comic value (a stuffed animal, a Thomas the Tank Engine, among others). As for our hero, he isn’t given a lot of situations to poke fun of. He’s a pleasant enough hero, though, registering confusion, amazement and other emotions when circumstances require them, but his charisma gets lost in the suit and drowned out in the noise of the plotlines.
Does he achieve his objective, does Pym keep this particular technology from destroying the known world, where does creator Stan Lee make his long-awaited cameo, do Lang and Hope fall in love? Well, you will have to see Ant-Man for the answers, but do not expect anything beyond an okay soundtrack and a mid-Marvel hero all the while primping for more interesting movies to come. (There is the closing credit tease in which Falcon says to Capt. America, “I know a guy,” which sets up the inevitable “Avengers 3” preview).
Ant-Man is not bad at all, it’s just nothing to write home excitably about, although it may make one feel a little guilty about all of those poor ants one may have roasted with a magnifying glass all those years ago.