Small Ant-Man packs a punch

Paul Rudd (above) as superhero Ant-Man, dealing with the little critters.
Paul Rudd (above) as superhero Ant-Man, dealing with the little critters.PHOTO: WALT DISNEY

Paul Rudd delivers laughs as an Everyman whose awkwardness and insecurity never leave him - even as a superhero


117 minutes/Now showing/****

The story: Cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), after serving time in jail, finds it hard to make ends meet, especially as he has to fulfil child support payments. Close friend Luis (Michael Pena) tells him of a safe in a house owned by an old man, Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Lang decides to raid the home, using his skills in electronics and wall-climbing.

Pacy, confident and as funny as anything you will see this summer season, this science-fiction flick about a crumb-sized human punches far above its weight in cast performances, characters and story.

This welcome return to storytelling-first principles, at a time when superhero flicks sell on convoluted lore and epic computer-generated battles, is thanks in large part to Edgar Wright.

The English helmer of the massively entertaining Cornetto trilogy (Shaun Of The Dead, 2004; Hot Fuzz, 2007; The World's End, 2013) was this project's director before he stepped aside because of creative differences with the producers, to let Peyton Reed (Bring It On, 2000) take over.

Now given a screenwriter credit (along with five other comedy- writing veterans), Wright has his fingerprints on the film in its awareness of its silly premise - Lang (Rudd) at one point tries to change his Ant-Man moniker.

The Wright touch is most apparent in how Lang is the straight man while Luis (Pena) is the comic, mirroring the Simon Pegg-Nick Frost double act in Wright's movies.

While Pena's line delivery is lovely to behold, Rudd's reactions are among the best in the business. There is one laugh when Pena speaks, and another, sometimes bigger laugh when the camera takes in Rudd's mien as he tries to comprehend the nuttiness of the statement.

His "what did I just hear" face is put to good use when the overly intense Dr Pym (Douglas, in a cracking performance) teaches him the science of controlling body size and ant-wrangling, or when his imperious daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, also firing on all cylinders) expresses contempt for his potential as a fighter of evil.

In contrast to the typically swaggering, smirky Marvel superhero, Rudd as Ant-Man remains less a character made for admiration than one to sympathise with. His Everyman identity - a little awkward, a little insecure - never leaves him, even after he gains super powers.

The cast is more than well- rounded off with the inclusion of Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, Lang's ex-wife's new husband, and Corey Stoll as Darren Cross, Pym's protege-turned-villain.

The plot is as basic as it gets and in its antagonist-protagonist set-up, almost an exact copy of the Spider-Man-Green Goblin situation.

But who cares? When you have a cast delivering comedy this strong, plot would only get in the way.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2015, with the headline 'Small Ant-Man packs a punch'. Print Edition | Subscribe