Latest ‘Ant-Man’ long on sci-fi, short on laughs

Paul Rudd better with punchlines than punches

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Where: In theatres
What: Movie, 127 mins.
When: Fri., Feb. 17
Genre: MCU
Rating: NNN (out of 5)
Why you should watch: If you like your MCU action long on sci-fi and CGI worlds, this might be your jam — but if you’re looking for laughs, not so much

MAYBE THIRD TIME is not the charm as director Peyton Reed brings back Paul Rudd in the big role as the (sometimes) little man with the latest instalment of the Ant-Man franchise, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, going too deep into the sci-fi at the expense of the light-hearted humour.

What made the first two Ant-Man movies work was the adorable, self-deprecation of lead Rudd, with plenty of winks to the audience and implied self-awareness that Ant-Man was a tiny piece of the Marvel Universe.

Quantumania swings awkwardly into attempting to be a sci-fi action thriller with a lead better at delivering punchlines than punches. Ant-Man is at his best being as surprised as the audience to find himself functioning in a superhero world. Gags based on him being mistaken for Spider-Man work while attempts to be a swashbuckling saviour in a CGI-powered fantasy world fall flat.

It’s probably essential to be familiar with previous Ant offerings as well as Avengers: End Game to follow the complex back story. All members of the extended Ant-Man family gather in this episode, including Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, played as well as the material allows by Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer, with Evangeline Lily as Lang’s love interest and bad-guy-battling partner Hope van Dyne (a.k.a. The Wasp). Kathryn Newton plays Cassie Lang, Lang’s daughter, and the whole colony, er, family eventually is dragged into something called the Quantum Realm, a sub-particle, creature-filled universe from which Janet was rescued in the last film.

It’s telling that the best scenes in the film involve Rudd amusingly interacting with the real world. The scenes in the Quantum Realm are not that impactful in a movie landscape currently littered with fantastical places from the recent animation bust, Strange World, to the gold standard of utopian filmmaking, Avatar: The Way of Water.

Ant-Man’s amusing, ex-con sidekicks from the first films are here too but are only seen in the surface-world scenes and are therefore wasted.

The antic of ants — the insect kind — offer occasional spots of amusement and delight. In one of the film’s “teaching” moments, we’re told the bugs are modelling socialist behaviour when they work together — and that’s okay.

Unfortunately, the latest Ant-Man movie makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously — and that kind of bugs us.