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‘Ant-Man’ a Fun but Frustrating Marvel Ride

Ant-Man_posterIf nothing else, this is proof that Paul Rudd makes everything bearable.

“Ant-Man” is the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it stars Paul Rudd as the titular superhero. Armed with a suit that gives him the ability to shrink, career burglar Scott Lang (Rudd) is recruited by an aging scientist (Michael Douglas) to pull off a heist that will save the world from the scientist’s ex-protégée (Corey Stoll). Peyton Reed directs.

There was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama before “Ant-Man” even began filming. Originally, Edgar Wright was supposed to write and direct the film, however left after those pesky “creative differences” arose with the studio. So Marvel brought in Adam McKay (known for directing Will Ferrell flicks) to rewrite the script with Rudd, and “Yes Man” director Peyton Reed to helm the project. It was clear that they were trying to go heavier on the comedy than the action with “Ant-Man,” which may be where the film’s biggest pluses, and faults, lie.

The film is a bit frustrating in that it does a lot right, and creates a fun ride for the audience, but at the same time bogs itself down with a cliché and sloppy narrative. For every step forward “Ant-Man” takes, it takes one back. The biggest problem I have with the film is that essentially the first half, if not more so, is exposition and explanation. We are introduced to the characters, and rightfully so, but the movie beats us over the head with facts repeatedly, like how Rudd is a good guy who just can’t go straight, and how Douglas needs to make sure his research isn’t duplicated.

The film just feels cookie-cutter, and it feels that way because it is. The villain of the film (Stoll, known for “House of Cards”) is one big, bald cliché: the ex-protégée is angry at his former mentor and tries to get back at him. He then creates a bigger and badder version of the hero’s suit, and the two must face off (if that sounds like the ending to “Iron Man” it’s because it is). Not too much about “Ant-Man” felt refreshing or new, and one can only imagine how much more energetic it would have been had Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) had stayed on as director.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its positives. Rudd is as charming as ever as our leading man; I’m pretty sure he could make reading the Wall Street Journal while eating a bowl of Fruit Loops into comedy gold. His wit and charisma save some scenes from feeling bogged down, and is believable in the action sequences. Michael Douglas turns in an entertaining performance as well, playing a man who truly cares about protecting his research because it is what’s best for humanity, not just for him.

Director Reed, like the film itself, is a mixed bag. He has a career in comedy, and most of the humor scenes are handled well; nothing ever feels too awkward or out of place. However it is the narrative and camera work that seemed slacking, which makes sense seeing as this is Reed’s first big-budget action flick. Most of the film is just build-up and preparation for the big heist, and when that finally comes it under-delivers. The film never truly flows well, and that usually falls at the fault of the man in charge.

“Ant-Man” is far from a bad movie, and it isn’t quite a failure for Marvel, but it certainly is one of their weaker films (I doubt anything will ever beat out “Thor 2” for their worst). Rudd and Douglas keep the film watchable, and some of the abilities they give Ant-Man are creative, but all these positives are almost knocked out by a tedious pace, formulaic plot and stereotypical supporting characters.

The film’s tagline is “Heroes Don’t Get Any Bigger Than Ant-Man.” Well they may not get bigger, but they certainly get better.

Critics Rating: 5/10



This Just In: ‘Anchorman’ Sequel Works


          I’m gonna do the thing that God put David Palmer on this earth to do: have Sports Clips quality hair and review the entertainment medium known as movies.

It is not too often, quite rare in fact, that comedy sequels are any good. Often the sequels are lazy carbon copies of the original. “The Hangover: Part II”, “Grown Ups 2” and “Caddyshack II” (shutters) all come to mind as sequels that horrifically missed the mark. However sometimes sequels are good. “Shrek II” and “Wayne’s World 2” are such examples.

Now we have “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”, the follow-up to the 2004 hit that put Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell on the comedy map. And I am happy to report (ha, news pun) that it is not a disaster.

Once again directed by Adam McKay, the movie follows Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and his news team (Rudd, Carell and David Koechner) as they move from San Diego to New York City in an effort to be part of the first ever 24 hour news broadcast channel.

The first “Anchorman” is a pop culture cornerstone, and is quoted daily. While this sequel has some entertaining one liners, one can’t help but think they may have been trying a bit too hard to reinvent the wheel. There are many moments where you get the feeling Ferrell and his friends think they just invented the next big pop culture reference, but in reality it is just a chuckle that we forget about moments later.

That is not saying the film is not funny; it has more chuckles than any film this year, and the ending is one of the most irrelevant and pleasurable sequences in cinema in i don’t know how long.

It was fun watching the movie touch on the topic of 24-hour news stations, and how they are run by big companies and sometimes cover fluff stories instead of hard hitting reports. It does this so well that one could argue the film is a satire. And since the film is set in 1980, there are a few clever jokes about future events, such as how “innocent” and “trustworthy” OJ Simpson is.

There are times the movie goes way off the tracks, involving one subplot that only produces one laugh yet lasts twenty minutes. It was random even by Will Ferrell and Anchorman standards, and I felt it was really just a pointless part of the film (I won’t say what it is for the sake of saving the one joke but trust me, it is pretty out there).

The film may not live up to the hype it built for itself (you couldn’t turn on a TV the past two months without seeing Ron Burgundy, whether he is in a car commercial or interviewing Peyton Manning for ESPN), but “Anchorman 2” is a funny movie. Yes, it is stupid and pointless and has no real structure by any conceivable measure, but if you’ve seen the first film you should expect nothing less.

It is clear that Ferrell and all the other comedic geniuses had a blast filming the movie, and that fun is quite infectious. You are having a ball alongside them, even if occasionally they are enjoying the ride a bit more than you. With a dozen fantastic cameos sprinkled in throughout the film’s running time, the movie never loses your interest and it is great to see the actors treated this like a passion project and didn’t just phone it in for an easy paycheck. And to quote Ron Burgundy: that’s kind of a big deal.

Critics Rating: 7/10