AntManWasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp is an action-comedy that understands how to throttle back.

Like Thor: Ragnarok, director Peyton Reed's 2015 Ant-Man is a less fatalistic visit to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, perhaps partly because the character of Ant-Man is likely one of Marvel Comics' most ridiculous. He can change size almost instantaneously, shrinking to insect proportions, or expanding to the dimensions of a house. Oh, yes, and somehow the circuitry of his super-suit enables him to communicate with ants. I mean, really.

To his credit, in this sequel as well as in the original, Reed somehow manages to transcend the preposterousness of it all and deliver an action-comedy that understands how to throttle back and pull at the heartstrings at just the right moments.

It's a couple of years since Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) illegally traveled to Germany to fight with "Cap" in Captain America: Civil War. Now under house arrest, Scott has only days until his sentence is over and he can again be a father to his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). But creator of the shrinking/expanding armor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) need Scott for a daring experiment to rescue Hope's mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm, the place you end up if you keep shrinking to become smaller than the fundamental particles that constitute matter, where the physical forces that define our universe have no meaning.

Oh, and bad guys. Has to be some bad guys, this time in the person of Walton Goggins as the head of a gang that wants to steal Pym's technology, and Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost, a supervillain who has the power to phase through solid matter. You can't honestly expect to develop technology that can change quantum reality and not have people hot to take it away from you.

Of course, all this opens up volumes of physics questions. If Ghost can make herself massless so she can pass through solid objects, why is she still subject to gravity? When Scott becomes giant-sized, does he somehow increase his mass, or does he still, at 60 feet tall, weigh only 170 pounds? When Hope, as the Wasp, shrinks to the size of a honeybee, does she still weigh 130, or does she somehow shed mass, and, if so, how does somebody that weighs a zillionth of a pound punch out villains?

Before you have time to wonder about stuff like that, Peyton's delightful cast of supporting characters distracts you. There's Laurence Fishburne as Hank Pym's disgruntled partner from the days of their youth, still sparring like it was 30 years ago; Randall Park as an FBI agent determined to get the goods on Scott and send him to prison; and, stealing every his scene he's in, Michael Peña reprising his role from the first film as Luis, Scott's former jailmate, now business partner in, of all things, a security company. Through Peña, Reed stages one scene that's the funniest thing I've seen all year, and you can tell the actors are having a grand time in it.

Beyond the fun and hilariously choreographed action and effects, there's some very real and profound emotion going on between fathers and daughters, as both Scott's relationship with Cassie and Hank's with Hope are imperiled, and there's another sort-of surrogate father-daughter relationship that figures prominently, which I'll let you discover for yourself. Reed, as director, does an admirable job of knowing when to have fun and when to be serious, maybe something that a lot of fathers should have a better sense of.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is ridiculous nonsense, but Rudd is so infectiously likable, Reed's direction so brisk, the dialogue so snappy, the verbal and visual gags so perfectly timed, that objections, well, shrink to insignificance. It's hilarious summer action, yet a profoundly serious family movie in the most literal sense. And I'd venture to say that it has broader significance in terms of the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe, so don't leave until after the end credits.

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