Review: 3rd time is far from the charm for bloated 'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania'

Do you suffer from multiverse fatigue?

February 17, 2023, 4:07 AM

Do you suffer from multiverse fatigue? Do you long for the days when just one verse was enough? Do you shrink from another trip into a quantum realm of substandard digital effects?

If so, "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," now in theaters and likely to dominate this Presidents Day holiday box office, won't heal your pain. Not even close.

Despite the presence of the insanely likable Paul Rudd as the mini hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the powerhouse impact of Jonathan Majors as the villainous Kang the Conqueror -- move over Thanos -- the third go-round for Ant-Man is more of the same to dwindling effect.

Paul Rudd in a scene from the movie "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."
Marvel Studios/Disney

It's also the kickoff for Phase 5 of the MCU, which doesn't augur well. That's surprising since the first two Ant-Man movies, in 2015 and 2018, were notable for their becoming modesty as the bratty, playful runts of the Marvel litter. In short, Ant-Man reveled in staying small.

No more. Even at two hours -- a blink compared to typical Avengers epics -- this one feels uncharacteristically bloated. Rudd is back as Scott Lang, the petty thief transformed into the crime-fighting Ant-Man. After he helped save the world in "Avengers: Endgame," Scott is enjoying his newfound celebrity as the bestselling author of "Look Out for the Little Guy."

He's also raising his teen daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) with the help of girlfriend Hope (Evangeline Lilly), aka The Wasp, and her parents Hank (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who's just back after 30 years of captivity in the Quantum Realm.

A setup for dufus domesticity? Hardly. Returning director Peyton Reed, working from a script by Jeff Loveness, has bigger goals than fun. It turns out that Cassie, with a little boost from Hank, has found a way to make contact with the Quantum Realm. Janet is understandably furious. But before you can say "plot contrivance," the whole family is zapped into fresh Quantum hell.

For a while, as we see the family join the resistance to Kang and his plan for world dominance, excitement holds sway. The sinking feeling sets in when we realize that "Ant-Man" has nothing to say that Thanos didn't think of already. Bathroom jokes try to pass as genuine humor as a pink, oozing alien asks a human, "How many holes do you have?"

A scene from the movie "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."
Marvel Studios/Disney

Despite the mood-breaking nonsense, the actors give their all, especially Pfeiffer, whose Janet holds the key to the master plan of Kang, recently featured on "Loki." Majors ("Da 5 Bloods," "Lovecraft Country") gives his dictator a gravity that seems at odds with the goofball frivolity around him. Expect serious deviltry from the K-Man in future Marvel epics.

The bad news is that the rest of this Ant-Man huffs and puffs and quickly blows down a house of cliched cards built on copycat special effects -- think the globby creatures from the cantina scene in "Star Wars" -- and miniaturizing tricks that soon wear out their welcome. Everything from "Dune" to "Spaceballs" is saluted and ripped off.

In all the fuss -- there's a bizarro cameo from Bill Murray as Lord Kylar -- we don't just loose track of the characters, we stop caring about them. That's a disaster for any disaster movie.

The third time is far from the charm for an Ant-Man that ignores its own cardinal rule -- less is more.