"You put a dime in him, you've got to let the whole song play out."
When Arthur C. Clarke wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology was indistinguishable from magic I doubt whether atomic scientist finger wizardry from former Cat-Women was exactly what he had in mind, yet that is the barely explained science thing we are asked to buy into during the closing moments of Ant-Man & The Wasp which, not unlike the rest of the movie, leaves a lot to be desired.
Finding Evangeline Lilly's bite-sized mother is the name of the game in Peyton Reed's second stab at bringing Ant-Man to the big screen. To achieve this Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) - who is currently serving house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War - must first be abducted, then put in a position where he must choose between the debt he owes the Van Dyne crew (Lilly and Douglas) and his own young daughter, all because he dreamed he was Michelle Pfeiffer once (and really, who among us?). They've got some kind of quantum connection, the Van Dyne's contest, because they've both shrunk to sub-atomic level and they need to get inside his head to find her. It's the kind of ambulatory plot contrivance that super-hero movies are often forgiven for and wouldn't be as much of an issue if it weren't indicative of the kind of laziness on display throughout the rest of this thoroughly uninspiring movie.
Chief among it's flaws is the fact that despite ostensibly being something approaching a comedy, Ant-Man & The Wasp manages to be so consistently unfunny. Rudd has his moments and Reed is able to construct one or two decent sight-gags, but the lion's share of the humour is delivered by Michael Pena who - while being fantastic in this movie - isn't in nearly enough of it to keep the script from moments of eye-roll-inducing tedium. Asking Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly to shoulder any kind of comedic burden is like telling a child to disarm a bomb: it's unreasonable of you to ask and will almost certainly end in tragedy. The script here is so lacking in anything resembling actual jokes that it feels almost as if Pena must have ad-libbed his lines, he is that far removed from everyone else in terms of quality.
Not pictured: Taika Waititi and Chris Hemsworth high-fiving as Thor Ragnarok's stock as a comedy retrospectively rises.
The absence of good comedic writing would perhaps not be as noticeable if the rest of the movie weren't so lacking in any kind of tonal consistency, or even just a script which didn't feel like it was written with nothing but getting it's characters out of stupid situations in mind. Lang's daughter video-calling her dad while he is being held hostage, with his kidnappers holding the phone up to his face out of frustration, is a relatively funny idea. Attempting to sow dissent between the kidnappers literally seconds later as they argue - very seriously - about whether they should also abduct his daughter is - at best - clumsy and - at worst - wildly misjudged. And this movie is full of these kind of tonal handbrake turns; a moment played off for humour which is also required to move the story forward and carry emotional weight. Neither the writing nor the direction is competent enough to achieve all three of these goals in one scene and so the movie frequently fails at all of them. And the constant sense that events are simply occurring because the plot demands them to compounds this lack of quality.
Visually, this is boring. The occasional uses of licensed music are fairly entertaining although this is purely because the song choice is good and it really can't be over-emphasized how funny Michael Pena is here. It's no coincidence that the best sequence of the movie is narrated entirely by him. It's just a shame that this wasn't a film which focused around his character.
This is a movie which would have been better as schlock. It tries to give the kind of villains who explain their plans to you a heart instead of having them twirl their mustaches, while the good guys stand around telling bad jokes and staring wistfully at each other with slight smiles while strings play softly behind them without a shred of irony. This is a super-hero movie where no one feels villainous and the heroes - like the film in general - are boring as hell.