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Monday, July 20, 2015

Ant-Man 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

Ant-ManDirector: Peyton Reed
Year: 2015
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly

"Scott, I need you to be the Ant-Man." So quips the Michael Douglas character, a radical physicist with a penchant for training ant organisms of the malevolent kind. Me, well I had a "need" to see Ant-Man the movie, a "need" to like Ant-Man the movie, and a "need" to give said shebang a favorable review. Oh well, at least 1 out of 3 "needs" were meant. That ain't bad (oops, the saying is "two out of three ain't bad". Somewhere Meatloaf is complaining). Anyway, I've heard a couple of other critics talk about "Ant" in the same vein as last year's Guardians of the Galaxy. I honestly don't see it except for the whole sly humor-mixed-with-galloping maneuver concept. "Galaxy" does a reasonable job while the latter has a concoction that comes off as a bit uneven. It's corny when it should be compelling, it's action as pure exhilaration then action as completely risible (all you gotta do is watch a scene involving good versus evil via a battery powered train set), and finally, it's Paul Rudd showing us the funny instead of maybe expanding his acting repertoire. Truth be told, I didn't want another Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I wanted Honey, I Shrunk the Badass Superhuman.

Referencing The Avengers multiple times, using enough CGI this side of Bruce Jenner to make Michael Douglas look thirty years younger (this was only in the first frame), and featuring a blink or you'll miss it cameo from Stan Lee (it's a Marvel Studios flick so of course), Ant-Man is something I wouldn't quite recommend. However, it's unlike any Marvel endeavor I've ever seen and heck, it's disparate from any film in general (we're talking some pretty broad territory here). It dares to be different and I give it points for that. The director is Peyton Reed. Recognized for normally helming comedies (The Break-Up, Down with Love), you wouldn't even know it was his baby had you not read "Ant's" dossier. He's like a new breed of action kingpin with his camera constantly moving. There are zippy flashbacks, tons of whip pans, and film pacing so earnest, the effect is dizzying. But while you admire his freewheeling technique, you wonder what he's trying to get Ant-Man to be. Was this thing intentionally meant to give off a Marvel spoof vibe? And is it a parody of the superhero/comic book genre? Oh and what's with all the out of place jokes killing much of the dramatic momentum. There was a concluding sequence where the protagonist and antagonist yelled childlike insults back and forth to each other (as shrunken human beings). I gotta confess, it was a laughable run-in that kind of made me wonder.

The story, which takes place monotonously in present day, subjugates thief and chronically absent father, Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd who can't shake his romcom persona thereby staying in his acting comfort zone). He's been in and out of jail, he has no job (despite being college-educated), and his daughter is watched over by his ex-wife and her jerk husband (Bobby Cannavale as Paxton. His character is well, a cop. Ouch.). When he's arrested for the umpteenth time, he's taken out of the slammer (I won't reveal how) and tapped to work for a scientist named Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym wants him to put on a suit, a suit which will allow him to shrink down to something the size of a penny. Here's where the ant species come into play: Lang learns to communicate with them via the guidance of the Douglas personality. They begin to act like humans and they help him steal government secrets from Pym's mentor who's also in the shrinking business (Darren Cross played by Corey Stoll). There's a robbery at a heavily secured building and as expected, chaos ensues with Rudd's Lang kicking some serious butt (I'm thinking it wasn't Pauly despite his buff physique. Come on, you knew a stuntman had to be wearing that shiny suit).

Now the strongest performance here, in fact comes from Stoll. He channels the obligatory archenemy. He underplays it with just the right amount of smarmy and slimy. When he executes a co-worker turning him into nothing but liquidity in a tissue, you squirm in your seat and know that he means business.

All in all, despite some eclectic, fistfight concatenations and a heist factor that is carried off with veritable aplomb, Ant-Man seems so small scale compared to other Marvel Studios films. I'm not saying that's a bad thing but the more you watch it, the more you forget that anything is really at stake (stuff like you know, the saving of the world or the fate of mankind hanging in the balance). There were moments to be had but it didn't possess the "ant"idote I was looking for. My rating: 2 and a half stars.

Of note: So OK, as I viewed Ant-Man, I kept thinking to myself, "this feels like a Disney movie". Well I checked the film's wiki page and it turns out I was half-right. I mean it's not a Disney vehicle per se but it is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Wow, you could have fooled me. This so-called Disney discern was not what I was hoping for and it came off as totally unexpected. Bummer. Also, I left during "Ant's" closing credits (after a midday screening) and was told that I missed an extended ending. If you the reader, end up seeing the flick, feel free to comment and let me know if it made things any better.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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