Family Movie Review: Ant-Man (PG-13)

Ant Man ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13         Length: 117 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. Typical superhero movie stuff. A couple of curse words; one shot with a shirtless Paul Rudd; one scene with some brief kissing; some hand-to-hand fighting, people dying from gunfire, and people getting turned into ooze; a baby lamb also getting turned into ooze; and a lot of ants, which may freak out young kids who aren't into insects.

Paul Rudd brings good-natured wonder, goofiness, and snark to 'Ant-Man,' the latest superhero movie from Marvel. It's an uneven endeavor, but more fun than you would have any reason to expect.

By Roxana Hadadi

The Marvel cinematic universe keeps getting weirder. If you thought "Guardians of the Galaxy," about a rag-tag group of heroes from across the universe, was the height of bizarre, then perhaps "Ant-Man" will be a little tamer for you. But this is still a movie where our atom-sized hero rides a raft made of helpful ants through water pipes, and also where a man uses a weapon that literally turns enemies into drops of orange ooze that he can then flush down a toilet. It's mostly bonkers fun, but "Ant-Man" is definitely strange.

The latest film from Marvel, following up May's "The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron," "Ant-Man" introduces yet another hero who will end up in future films (and yes, you should stay through the credits). The interconnectivity of these movies is still going strong, and "Ant-Man" hits a lot of the right notes. It's funny, it's goofy, it doesn't take itself too seriously, it's (mostly) well-cast, it's (mostly) well-written, and it may make you want an ant as a pet. OK, it will definitely make you want an ant as a pet.

But "Ant-Man" has some flaws, despite the excellence of Paul Rudd's (of "They Came Together") lead performance as Scott Lang. The problems are in tone (it's more traditionally "fun" than the other Marvel movies, but that also means the stakes don't feel as high) and its supporting characters, who are mostly stereotypes and caricatures. Audiences may laugh at the accented Russian hacker and the cop-car-stealing black getaway driver and the stereotypically Italian cop, but those portions of the film feel surprisingly simplistic in a way that the diverse Marvel films usually aren't. The subpar characters are noticeable because they're so unlikely.

The film focuses on the ex-convict Lang, freshly out of jail for a variety of crimes like hacking and breaking and entering, but he's a good guy: His latest bad deed was uncovering corporate corruption and transferring money back to workers who deserved it. Nevertheless, he can't find a job, and his old cellmate/current roommate Luis (Michael Peña of "Frontera," who nearly steals the whole movie with his hilarious performance) floats one final job past him: Break into a house, break through a safe, and steal what's inside. Easy.

But what's inside is a strange suit, and when Scott puts it on, he shrinks—to the size of an ant. Eventually he learns that he's been recruited by the reclusive genius scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, of "And So It Goes") and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies") in their fight against Pym's old mentee, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, of "The Good Lie"), who now runs Pym's old company and is taking it into frightening places with weapon development. For years Cross has been trying to figure out Pym's secrets, and now that he has, he wants revenge—and it's up to Scott to stop him.

What "Ant-Man" does right, it hits out of the park with verve and delight, along with an eye-winking sense of "Can you believe we're doing this?" There's the sequence where Scott first shrinks and ends up falling through the cracks of his crummy apartment building, then a training montage with Hank and Hope filled with many rolled eyes and deadpan dialogue, and then a bonkers final fight that nicely juxtaposes how chaotic the battle looks on Ant-Man's level vs. how inconsequential it looks to normal-sized humans. There's a good sense of glee here that can be shared by parents and teens alike. Ultimately, "Ant-Man" is just another cog in the Marvel machine, but it distinguishes itself nicely.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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