Ant-Man (2015) — Superhero comedy heist

“That is one messed-up looking dog.”

Justin’s rating: I’ve got ants in my pants

Justin’s review: While the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are certainly deserving of some of the criticisms flung their way — particularly how they are overblown spectacles obsessed with fanservice — I do appreciate how the studio has willingly dipped into its lesser-known properties and experimented with the tone of certain films. Both of these points apply strongly to Ant-Man, which is more of a crime caper movie than an out-and-out superhero brawlfest using a guy that most audiences had never heard of before 2015.

Of course, Iron Man wasn’t exactly a household name before 2008, if you recall.

The first time I saw Ant-Man, it was from a pool deck on an Alaskan cruise ship, so I didn’t really hear or even see about 40% of the movie. I figured it deserved another go. This time, I enlisted the companionship of my kids, who definitely enhanced this movie with their constant laughter and delighted rehashing of particularly good quotes.

Scott Lang (the ever-youthful Paul Rudd) is a cat burglar who gets released from prison but can’t hold a job — or see his daughter Cassie-of-the-abnormally-wide-eyes. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas with a distracting goatee) is an inventor and former superhero who is worried that his protégé (discount Jeff Bezos) is going to sell his shrinking tech to Hydra. Desperation drives Scott and Hank together in an effort to steal back the technology and somehow win visitation hours with a little girl.

And for this to happen, Scott is going to have to become Ant-Man: a superhero with the power to shrink really, really small and control ants with the power of his mind. Hank and his daughter Hope (Lost’s Evangeline Lilly) train Scott through the power of a montage to harness all of his weird abilities for the task of infiltrating both an Avengers storehouse (and fight the Falcon) and Hank’s former corporation.

While this movie exists firmly in the MCU, the shift in tone to a heist movie allows more room for character and humor, both of which serve Ant-Man rather well. In fact, there’s precious little action in the first half of the film, but it’s never really boring. Rudd is pretty funny as Scott Lang, and he’s joined by a comedic trio of criminal partners who are just as dorky as they are competent.

But the real centerpiece of Ant-Man is the shrinking itself, which is complicated by how fast its activated and deactivated (which is a key difference between this and, say, InnerSpace or Honey, I Shrank the Kids). There’s some really great camerawork that zooms in and out, giving us vastly different visions of common settings. Scott has a whole lot of toys to play with, including shrinking/growing discs, four species of ants, and the suit itself, and it’s a fun trip to see what ways he uses them to overcome plus-sized obstacles.

I like how Ant-Man feels like a more relatable, mid-range superhero movie instead of an Avengers-level brawl. Is it a masterpiece of cinema? Not in the least. But it does feature a supersized Thomas the Tank Engine crashing through a house and a guy the size of a gnat beating up grown men, so it earns the price of admission.

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