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ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: PURE ENTERTAINMENT

Ant-man is one of my favorite Marvel movies: it’s lighthearted but takes its origin story seriously. Every piece fits together, and by the time it’s done you’ve got a seemingly complicated jigsaw puzzle that makes perfect sense. What’s more, Marvel put its trademark out-of-the-box casting ideas to work, with Paul Rudd a delight in the title role, surrounded by talented costars. (I’m aware that the movie was beset with problems in the pre-production stage but I can only judge the finished product.)

Here’s the surprising good news: lightning has struck twice. Everything I enjoyed about the first movie is repeated successfully. It’s funny, imaginative, full of action—not violent action—and knockout visual effects that serve the story. Five writers are credited but the result doesn’t feel like a hodgepodge. Everything meshes and it’s all character-driven.

The Ant-man saga picks up where the last one left off, as Scott Lang (the endearingly flippant Rudd, who also gets co-writing credit) is almost finished serving his time under house arrest, and trying to keep some connection with his young daughter. He’s just got three days to go, but that deadline becomes dicey (to say the least) as a crisis demands that he put his unique powers of miniaturization to work alongside The Wasp. Part of the novelty is the constant presto-change-o resizing of these characters and even their equipment. Snap: they’re so tiny you can barely see them. Snap again: they’re enormous.

Once again, the cast is uniformly strong, from leading lady Evangeline Lilly to the very funny Michael Peña. The tone of the movie is just serious enough that every character has something at stake, which draws us in. Likewise, every actor has a chance to shine, even in small-ish roles. I can’t say enough about Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Randall Park, T.I., David Dastmalchian, and Walton Goggins. Even Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale make the most of their brief screen time.

Some comic-book superhero films are well-made but they’re exhausting to watch. This one is pure fun, with endless twists and surprises. You never know what’s coming next—a serious dilemma for our heroes or a silly comic moment. What’s more, returning director Peyton Reed and his team don’t give you much time to think. The pace never flags…and neither does the gleam of pure entertainment.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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