Screened Out – Ant-Man

By : Stephen Miller
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Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackey, Corey Stoll

This shrinky-dink superhero story is just smart enough. Ant-Man is an acceptable way to fritter away a few bucks and a few hours. It expands the Marvel movie universe a blip, but that’s about it.

Not that it should do more than that. This mite-sized mercenary – a minor in the Marvel canon – has always been ludicrous character, his story begging for supreme silliness.

The film serves some slapstick; it could’ve delivered more.

Rudd is a noble technical whiz who once hacked his unethical employers to show them up as crooks. Unfortunately, he’s the one who went to prison, leaving a wife and small daughter. Now that he’s out, he wants to go clean.

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Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd have a natural chemistry.

So far, nothing surprises. It never gets better than average – the narrative feeling mechanical, a fill-in-the-blank origin story.

Typical of these tales, Rudd meets a rich genius (Douglas) who’s lost his company. Douglas and his sexy, severe daughter (a wooden Lilly, the Hobbit films) want to set things right. They want to stop the stereotypical evil genius (a boring Stoll) who took over. He’s been trying to figure out Douglas’ technology for years, and now that he has, Stoll wants to unleash it on the world for profit. These new gadgets will also bring international chaos, of course.

The technology is the gimmick here. Years ago, Douglas discovered how to shrink people and things while maintaining their full-sized power. Douglas was once Ant-Man; the suit made him sick. (This works well with Douglas. I debated on mentioning in this review that his acting cannot quite cover his recent health problems; this role works with them instead of trying to cover them up.) Douglas recruits Rudd to take over as Ant-Man.

Obviously, the production team is shooting for comedy. Director Peyton Reed’s best films have been The Break-Up and Down with Love. You don’t hire comedic actors like Rudd if you want Thor-like Shakespearean drama. Rudd is also one of the four writers here, along with funnymen variously responsible for comedies Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World’s End, and the Anchorman series.

With that crew on board, you’d think everything would be much, much funnier. There are only a few solid laughs. A joke that reference parent company Disney is cute. Moments that tie into the huge Marvel flagship Avengers are actually great. Specific scenes remind us of the frenetic Scott Pilgrim. Most of the laughs, though, are…forgive the pun…tiny.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

On top of that, there is not enough plot twist. We see things a mile away, and we wait because we know they’ll pop up again. As an origins story, this script is pretty basic.

That’s not to say that Ant-Man shouldn’t do well, nor is it saying it’s not worthy of sequels. The special effects are fun, and there’s an admirable tightness to the whole automated endeavor. However, that next time they can think a little bit bigger and perhaps make it a mite bit more memorable.

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