“Ant Man,” the popcorn shrimp of summer popcorn pictures, becomes “Ant Man and The Wasp” as a sequel — twice the super-heroes in the title, less than half the laughs and thrills.
It’s the most underwhelming of the year’s endless parade of comic book blockbusters, limply-scripted, emotionally lacking and perfunctorily-acted. Any pleasure one took from Paul Rudd‘s gee-whiz “LOOKIT what I can do” turn in his first performance (performances) in the part is washed away long before he takes a dip in San Francisco Bay. Expecting Evangeline Lilly to do half the lifting is the worst kind of wishful thinking.
If you can’t find somebody more original than Walton Goggins (“Tomb Raider,” “Maze Runner,” “Hateful Eight”) to be your villain, try again.
If you can’t cut a trailer that doesn’t give away EVERY sight gag, don’t bother.
If you can’t think beyond that hoary dialogue cliche when the team is stumped about a place to hide or a new character to save them, hire five better writers than this.
“Well, there is ONE place.” “Well, there is ONE person.”
Ant Man Scott (Rudd) is still under house arrest for what he and “Cap” (Captain America) and their team did to Berlin fighting The Avengers. The inventor of the shrinking tech Pym (Michael Douglas) and his Wasp daughter (Evangeline Lilly) are on the lam.
But they have a multi-story lab that shrinks to the size of a carry-on, and a Hot Wheels carrying case full of snazzy vehicles they can blow up to usable size. And they have a mission — find Professor Pym’s missing wife, mother of Hope (Lilly), who disappeared into The Quantum Realm, shrunken so small you can barely tell she’s played by Michelle Pfeiffer.
Scott might know where she is. That ankle monitor the FBI (Randall Park) has on him? A trifling inconvenience, as indeed are the Feds in general.
More of a problem is Sonny Burch (Goggins, the Tiffany Haddish of screen villains), a black market technology trader who covets that lab. Even more problematic is Ghost, this masked thief (Hannah John-Kamen) who is impossible to fight, because she’s…a ghost.
It’s a film of LOOooong bursts of exposition — delivered by Park, Douglas, Lawrence Fishburne, etc. — and precious few laughs. Rudd, an Apatow Pack alumnus, where “The Best Joke on the Set Wins,” gets a screenwriting credit (with four others). None of them can find much of anything funny for him to do or say.
Michael Peña, back as ex-con sidekick Luis, has the funniest scene, an antic interrogation that begins with a spirited patter-debate on whether there is such a thing as “truth serum.” He delivers back-story and exposition in a breathless Red Bull/cocaine jag inspired by the drunken lip-synced voice-overs of TV’s “Drunk History.” It’s hysterical.
The rest? A little novelty, a cute kid (Abby Ryder Forson), and endless sight-gags dealing with scale — tiny to HUGE, microbe to giant, human to hobbit.
There are pointless, humorless arguments over the whether the correct phrase is “land this fish” or “land this bird,” and Hope remembering the wardrobe “where I hid EVERY time Mom and I played hide and seek.”
Rudd’s wittiest comeback? “It seems to you didn’t really get the GIST of the game.”
Lilly has even less to say, and isn’t the least bit amusing saying it.
Good things come in small packages and life’s little pleasures are to be treasured, but “Ant Man and The Wasp” — together, equal-billed and boring — are too little of a good thing.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lawrence Fishburne and Michael Douglas
Credits:Directed by Peyton Reed, script by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari. A Marvel/Walt Disney release.
Running time: 1:58