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Review: ‘Ant-Man’ scores big with comedy, creativity

SHARE Review: ‘Ant-Man’ scores big with comedy, creativity

"Ant-Man" is this year’s "Guardians of the Galaxy." It focuses on a peripheral, wisecracking member of the Marvel Universe, adding a generous dose of humor to its superhero action.

Given the high standard of the big 2014 summer hit, "Ant-Man" has its work cut out for it. It probably won’t attain the level of "Guardians" in terms of ticket sales (or soundtrack sales), but it’s a lot of fun and definitely earns its club membership.

After a quick opening prologue, viewers meet Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), an ex-con who is trying to put his burglary skills away for good so he can be a part of his young daughter’s life. Jobs are hard to come by in a rough economy, but they’re that much harder to score when you have a record, and Scott is on the verge of re-entering his old life when he gets recruited by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas).

Pym is a brilliant scientist with a conscience. Years earlier, he perfected a shrinking formula that various interested parties (including S.H.I.E.L.D.) wanted to militarize. Instead, he walked away and watched as his protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) developed it. Now Pym needs Scott to help him stop Cross short of the miniature goal line.

The plan involves a special suit that allows its occupant to shrink down to the size of an insect, while amplifying his strength at the same time. There are also several armies of real ants at Ant-Man’s disposal, as well as the reluctant help of Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

In a lot of ways, it’s the typical superhero formula. Roll out the hero’s origin story, plug in an obligatory bad guy and let them fight it out in the third act. But "Ant-Man" plays with the formula just enough to keep things interesting through the final credits.

(Speaking of which, be sure to stick around for a pair of bonus scenes that are well worth the wait.)

For one, the humor really works. (Having Edgar Wright of "Shaun of the Dead" fame co-pen the screenplay certainly helps.) Director Peyton Reed lays the jokes on thick, but never so much that they become distracting. The humor even manages to make connections to the greater Marvel Universe with lots of fun results.

More importantly, the shrinking dynamic makes the final showdown between Ant-Man and Cross much more compelling than the average building smashing showdown. There’s a certain degree of wackiness to Ant-Man’s mayhem that will keep audiences from zoning out and focused on the final outcome.

Ant-Man also has a good heart. Rudd does an excellent job of emoting a sketchy character who is trying to be a better person. In fact, most of the Marvel movies have been relatively family friendly, but "Ant-Man," in particular, feels like a movie you could take the kids to see.

"Ant-Man" isn’t a perfect film. It has its logic gaps, and some audiences might be annoyed at the cartoonish, stereotypical depictions of Scott’s ex-con crew. But some effective humor, skillful writing and strong visual effects add up to a surprisingly fun summer movie, even if it’s the dwarf planet Pluto to Marvel’s ever-expanding solar system.

"Ant-Man" is rated PG-13 for action violence and some profanity.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.