Why Smaller Is Better for ‘Ant Man and the Wasp’

The buzz, and perception, that greeted the first “Ant Man” movie was hardly encouraging.

Comic cutup Paul Rudd as a buff superhero? A directorial switcheroo cast Edgar Wright aside for the director of … “Bring It On.” And who is Ant Man again?

The superhero romp defied expectations, critically and commercial. So how does the sequel, “Ant Man and the Wasp,” compare? It’s merely the perfect antidote to superheroes trying to save the universe. It’s also funnier than 98 percent of would-be comedies.

At some point the MCU is going to suffer a big, ol’ belly flop. Not yet, though.

Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and The Wasp - Official Trailer #2

Rudd is back as Scott Lang, who we learn is under house arrest for breaking parole to fight his fellow Avengers in “Captain America: Civil War.” Yes this MCU romp fits snugly into the greater Marvel picture.

He’s visited by Henry Pym (Michael Douglas) and his old flame Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly of “Lost” fame). Together, they recruit Scott to help them rescue Hope’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), the first Wasp. Mama Wasp once shrank so aggressively she disappeared into a sub atomic realm.

Now, the technology exists to find Janet, assuming our heroes can dodge a mystery woman who can phase in and out of our realm (Hannan John-Kamen) and an oily merchant (the great Walton Goggins).

RELATED: Essential Guide to Black Panther, MCU’s Latest Superstar

Simple, right? “Ant Man and the Wasp” won’t save humanity or track down any Infinity Stones. Our heroes flirt their way through a brisk adventure loaded with laughs.

We know Rudd is funny. The entire franchise now can be considered a comedy series. The laughs bubble up early as we see Scott killing time as the final hours of his house arrest whistle by.

But wait … there’s more!

Scene stealer Michael Pena returns as an entrepreneur with visions of grandeur for his start-up, X-Con. He’s a hoot who never overstays his welcome. Also rock solid? Randall Park (“Fresh Off the Boat”) as an overzealous S.H.I.E.L.D. agent eager to catch Scott outside his home prison.

The stakes throughout couldn’t be lower. The world isn’t in jeopardy, just Scott’s bond with his sweet daughter and a long-lost parent floating like an atom. What a palate cleanser from the oh, so serious “Black Panther” and the uber-tragic “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The script, credited to a gaggle of scribes including Rudd, is a serial hoot. Director Peyton Reed’s comic touch here isn’t just good. It’s sublime. Everyone is playing the same puckish note, which isn’t quite “Thor: Ragnarok” quirky but settles on its own puckish mood.

The running gags almost all work, from the montage of Scott keeping busy at home to a “truth serum” which may or not actually. Bad running gags can stall a film in its tracks. No fear of that here.

Ant-Man And The Wasp’s Quantum Universe: Is The Film’s Science Possible? | Mach | NBC News

The supporting players offer a dash of grit to the proceedings. Hank Pym remains a blowhard, a short-tempered genius who thinks everyone should just follow his lead. He’s still pining for his lost love, and that tenderness plays out in a very funny scene involving switched bodies.

Yes, that sounds as hacky as a sitcom where a character suffers amnesia from a blow to the head. It connects all the same.

The villains here aren’t the main attraction, though they provide just enough tension to make them worthwhile. John-Karen offers an intriguing baddie, someone with a purpose you won’t see coming. Goggins, so badly used in “Tomb Raider,” won’t make you forget his excelsior work on FX’s “Justified.” He still delivers what we expect from him, juicy line readings that make us wanna root for the bad guys.

FAST FACT: Ant Man and the Wasp were two of the original five “Avengers” in the comic series’ first issue. The Others? Thor, Hulk and Iron Man.

The action sequences lack the fury of MCU at its best. They’re rigorously clever all the same, utilizing the shrink/expand gimmick until even ordinary Pez dispensers become part of the glee.

Earlier this year “Black Panther” took superhero movies in a bold new direction. “Avengers: Infinity War” jammed almost every comic book character into one massive film … and left us hungry for more.

So where does “Ant Man and the Wasp” fit in? It’s purely joy, a rush of movie going adrenaline that flows into the first of two post-credit scenes. That’s super, man.

HiT or Miss: “Ant Man and the Wasp” is just plain fun. No complaints here.

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