Bring It On director Peyton Reed returns with Marvel sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp, a heartfelt family comedy in which the peril lies in a father-daughter plot, rather than the fate of the universe.
One of the joys of the Ant-Man movies is its protagonist, Scott Lang, (Paul Rudd). Unlike Black Panther who is king of a wealthy, secret nation, or Iron Man who’s a billionaire playboy with weaponised armour, Lang is a regular guy, with a playful sense of humour, who doesn’t have a grand mythology. That is, of course, until he acquired a suit that allows him to shrink the size of a bug while retaining superhuman strength, and the ability to command legions of insects.
Aside from his superhero alter-ego, Lang needs to protect and look after his daughter Cassie, (the remarkable Abby Ryder Fortson) while also trying to find gainful employment despite a criminal past. Try as he might to do the right thing, more often than not, he finds himself in muddy waters.
Set two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Lang finds himself under house arrest for breaking the Sokovia Accords when he went rogue with Cap and co in their showdown with Tony Stark. Stuck in his San Francisco home and days away from freedom, Lang finds himself having to violate his parole as he is drawn back into the world of superheroes by the creator of the Ant-Man suit, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope – aka The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly). Hope and Hank are attempting to rescue Hank’s wife, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm and need Scott’s help.
There are arms dealers, FBI agents, a mysterious inter-dimensional villain called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), jokes about tardigrades, and a plethora of McGuffins such as the gathering of parts needed to build a do-hickey-whatchamacallit that opens a tunnel to the quantum realm. Such is the standard guff we have come to accept in the MCU.
No matter, because what makes Ant-Man and the Wasp so charming, funny, and emotionally compelling, is its blend of crime-caper and family comedy. Yes, there are amusing visual tricks involving supersized Hello Kitty Pez candy dispensers and Hot Wheels cars, but the film’s DNA is firmly rooted in family.
With a lightness of touch, Reed’s film centres on whether Scott will still be able to see his daughter or not. At the same time, the visual splendour is supplied in another family-driven plot, with Lang helping the Pyms to reunite – admittedly by traversing a hypnotic and psychedelic inter-dimensional world. Nevertheless, family is what’s at stake, rather than alien invasions or demi-gods getting upset when their hammers get broken.
This all makes for a gleefully entertaining, down to earth, two hours. With well-balanced humour, and a heartfelt father/daughter narrative, Ant-Man and The Wasp makes for refreshing viewing after the gasp-inducing drama of Thanos clicking his fingers. Sometimes, focusing on the smaller stories is just better.
Joseph Walsh | @JosephDAWalsh