The second of three Marvel movies to be released this year, Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a tech savvy thief newly released from a prison stint, who gets pulled back into the crime business despite previously vowing to clean up his act for the sake of his young daughter. After confiscating what appears to be an old motorcycle suit during a late-night raid, he learns firsthand that it has the ability to shrink the wearer to the size of an insect. Impressed by his skills, the owner of the suit Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) recruit him to take down an evil businessman who’s intent on using the suit’s technology for nefarious purposes.
This may sound like typical superhero movie fare but Ant-Man does its best to distinguish itself from its predecessors by incorporating fleet-footed computer generated action and a playful brand of self-referential humor into the mix. The story cleverly compiles a cast of various species of ants, like bullet ants and electric ants, to aid Lang in his micro conquests, which gives the action scenes a more credible sense of scale than if it was just one man inching along the floor by himself. Most of the film’s biggest laughs come from the sheer silliness of seeing high-stakes setpieces taken place on such a physically small stage, as when Ant-Man does battle inside of a free falling briefcase while “Disintegration” by The Cure scores the scene brilliantly.
Despite these advancements, director Peyton Reed can’t seem to circumnavigate the same obstacles that have plagued the most recent Marvel movies. The most obvious is the absence of a worthy villain, with Darren Cross competing for the most perfunctory and shallow nemesis in the MCU so far. His lack of character development actually goes on to affect the thrust of the story and sets up a third act that feels unmotivated and tedious. On the hero side of things, I didn’t find much believable chemistry between the three leads and the forced flirtation between Rudd and Lilly seemed equally dubious. I give credit for Ant-Man being the “little Marvel movie that could” but I know I could have enjoyed it more if some of the bugs had been worked out.
Comedienne Amy Schumer looks to capitalize on the recent breakout success of her Comedy Central series with Trainwreck, a new Judd Apatow directed romantic comedy that features a screenplay written by Schumer. She also stars in the film as Amy, a promiscuous, hard-drinking party girl who keeps herself emotionally distanced from the multitude of men with whom she engages sexually. On assignment from the magazine company where she works, she meets successful sports doctor Aaron Connors (Bill Hader) and the two ease their way into a romantic relationship. This proves to be more challenging for Amy, who has been taught by her father (Colin Quinn) at a young age that monogamy is unrealistic, and the story follows the ups and downs of their courtship.
Although she doesn’t really try to avoid typical rom-com tropes and conventions, Schumer has done a fine job adapting her sketch comedy writing skills for the big screen. Naturally, it features plenty of laugh out loud moments and funny exchanges but also includes a poignant subplot involving her complicated relationship with her younger sister that helps give the movie a better sense of direction and groundedness. There’s a naked honesty to those family scenes that seems deeply personal to Schumer, which may make some audiences uncomfortable and eager to get back to the comedy but I appreciate her effort to add a more resonant dynamic to the story.
Elsewhere, Apatow sticks to his signature brand of implementing celebrity cameos (this time, sports figures are the main focus) and largely improvised one-liners into the existing script. We know Schumer and Hader are deft comedic performers but the real surprises come from the hilarious performances of WWE wrestler John Cena as one of Amy’s flings and LeBron James as Aaron’s protective and unexpectedly stingy best friend. Both do a commendable job of holding their own against their veteran counterparts and I’d love to see either of them do comedy again in the future.