Friday, July 17, 2015

So-so ‘Ant-Man’ should especially appeal to pre-high school kids

By Steve Crum

Ant-Man will appeal mostly to ant-people. Translated: children. Factor in fans of Paul Rudd and Marvel superheroes, and you could have a box office community picnic. (Sorry, I’ll try to contain any more ant references.) That also translates to family viewers, since kids are involved. Those who either do not have kids or are high school age and above should be leery of Ant-Man. Besides its slow pacing, the movie’s predictable plot could be excruciating for adults. Considering the target audience, the 117-minute running time should have been pared way down.

However, and this is a huge however, star Paul Rudd also contributed dozens of funny lines to help spice up the story and turn Ant-Man into something more like a comedy-superhero flick. That would make the movie either a comero or a supedy. The laughs are appreciated and much needed, particularly during the non-action sequences where too often there are lengthy explanatory speeches delivered by Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym character. 

Digital effects, such as numerous shrinkings and miniaturized action among an army of ants, are impressive. Truthfully, I was just as impressed, maybe even more, with the non-digital miniatures in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids—26 years ago.

Director Peyton Reed (The Break-Up) and his screen scribes (Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Paul Rudd) have taken a relatively minor Marvel comic book superhero, Ant-Man, and launched him toward either his own franchised movie series or as another teammate of The Avengers in that franchise’s future films. (Not to go ballistic spoiler, but stick around during and after the end credits.) IF this Ant-Man kills at the box office, then both choices are possible. I understand that Ant-Man comic book fans (I am not one of them) already know what the Marvel future holds in this regard.

Regarding Ant-Man’s predictable plot, we get a deranged scientist who has his eyes on monetary profit and earth’s dominance (Corey Stoll as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket). Factor in Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), whose miniaturizing technique has been stolen by the evil Cross. Enter Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, an ex-con (for burglary) recruited by Pym to wear his Ant-Man suit to organize actual ants to help defeat Cross. Later in the film, Cross dons his own suit, that of the imposing Yellowjacket. 

As a turn on most superhero movies, Lang has an ex-wife, Maggie (Judy Greer) and young daughter. Maggie has married a policeman (Bobby Cannavale), which adds a unique layer to the storyline. To balance the love subplot, there is Pym’s scientist daughter, the unmarried Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Well, Lang is single now, so.... 

A definite plus of Ant-Man, outside of some clever action sequences, is Michael Peña’s funny Luis. A former cellmate of Scott Lang, Luis joins the Lang-Pym team as comrade-at-arms and sidekick-comedy relief. 

Ant-Man is highlighted by bursts of fun special effects (thousands of ants and miniaturizing sequences) and tame violence. 

Addendum: I confess that throughout Ant-Man I was looking for Marvel comics guru Stan Lee (who always appears in cameo during a Marvel movie) to pop up as a cricket. 

GRADE: On an A to F scale: C+