In the present day, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a noble cat burglar — he stole information from the company he worked for to blow the whistle on vague bad things it was doing — is just getting out of prison. When Lang and his motley crew of friends break into Pym’s San Francisco house, he finds what looks like a motorcycle suit. Returning home, he tries it on and luckily it fits. Then with the push of a button, he finds himself a very tiny man in a bathtub that stretches out like a porcelain tundra. And that’s when “Ant-Man” starts carrying its weight.
The early scenes that focus on Lang’s struggles — a post-prison job at Baskin-Robbins, a young daughter he’s kept from seeing — feel off, possibly because Rudd’s immense likability means he’s just not believable as a bad guy, even a good bad guy. Same with the clunky, telegraphed setup of villain Darren Cross (Corey Stoll): You’d think people would learn to never trust the bald billionaire with daddy issues slash a disregard for human life.
Once Lang starts his formicidaeic training, though, director Peyton Reed (“Bring It On”) moves things along briskly, relying on impressive visuals (here we have the first zero-gravity intra-briefcase battle in movie history) and the well-balanced performances by Rudd and Douglas. The former provides the laughs, the latter the gravitas of a man who knows that, in a roundabout way, it’s kind of his fault that the world is in danger.
Marvel Studios’ latest tries to walk the line between the serious social commentary of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and the goofy heroism of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and it can’t match either movie. Still, “Ant-Man” has enough of the Marvel sensibility (and cameos and allusions) to save it from mediocrity. If it can’t be a tale to amaze, it’s at least strong enough to be a tale to amuse.
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