For moviegoers whose knowledge of the Marvel universe doesn’t extend to its second-tier pantheon of superheroes, the thought of a microscopic do-gooder in a microscopic suit and mask may sound a bit, well, ridiculous. Neither super nor particularly heroic. But Peyton Reed’s late-summer comic-book caper, Ant-Man, should uncock a lot of skeptically raised eyebrows. Watching Paul Rudd, reduced to the size of a dust mite, zipping around with his six-legged army of mind-controlled insects and sneaking into tight, top-secret spots, it suddenly makes sense why being tiny might be as advantageous as being the size of the Hulk. It helps, of course, that Rudd is the guy doing the selling.
As Scott Lang, a tech-savvy ex-con cat burglar tapped by brainiac inventor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to stop his onetime-disciple-gone-bad (Corey Stoll) from duplicating his research and passing it along to HYDRA, Rudd gooses the film to life with his scalpel-sharp comic timing and affable wiseguy charm. Like Chris Pratt, he’s smart enough to handle these films with a light touch or else fall prey to Marvel’s tendency to be morose and self-serious. Lang’s the kind of cut-up Tony Stark might be if he dialed back the smarm factor from an 11 to a 6. Still, it’s a Marvel movie, which means it runs on far too long. By the time the final Mission: Impossible-style heist arrives, my mind was drifting off to all of the unpredictably loopy and lunatic places original Ant-Man director Edgar Wright might have taken the film’s sluggish climax. Still, thanks to Ant-Man’s ace supporting cast (including Evangeline Lilly as Pym’s estranged daughter and the scene-stealing Michael Pena as Lang’s excitably dim partner in crime), Reed and Rudd’s film is proof that no matter how silly some ideas sound at first, good things often do come in small packages. B