Dateworthy? “Ant-man and the Wasp”

Is “Ant-man and the Wasp” worth a weekend date night with your love? Absolutely! The second film in the series focuses on the tiny superhero and pairs him with female tiny titan the Wasp. The directors added a fun kick of romance and banter to the fast-paced silliness. Even weaker villains make this a little less riveting than the first.

One of the many refreshing qualities that have helped the Marvel superhero movies dominate the global box office over the past decade has been their strong sense of humor. Rather than merely being brooding and morose like the DC films such as “Man of Steel” and “Batman vs. Superman,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have infused their adventures with laughs from both witty lines and plot-driven moments.

In 2015’s first “Ant-Man” movie, the comedy took precedence over superhero theatrics. The film focused on the story of a cat burglar named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Scott found his inner hero. Together with his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), they pulled off a heist that could save the world. Aside from hilarious dialogue, the film zipped along with highly original action set pieces centered upon Hank’s ability to make Scott gain more strength as he grew ever tinier.

Heists, humor and humanity make this the most affable superhero series

Heists, humor and humanity make this the most affable superhero series

It was a combo that made that first film my personal favorite among the entire MCU. I preferred the comedy and humanity of it and the fact it wove in the heist genre – including a colorful and diverse supporting cast of Scott’s fellow thieves – to great effect. All of these elements came together to create a film that thanks to Rudd’s affable performance as the most relatable of Marvel heroes.

Now the sequel, “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” is coming out this weekend, Returning director Peyton Reed and his team of writers has amped up the comedy even more. They have also added Laurence Fishburne and Michelle Pfeiffer to the mix. Fishburne plays a former colleague turned scientific rival of Pym’s. Pfeiffer plays Pym’s wife Janet and mother to their daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

At the end of the first “Ant-Man,” the film revealed that Hank had managed to develop similar shrinking and strength powers for Hope. He crafted a super-suit for her as The Wasp. In the new film, she’s been upgraded to a full-on co-star and sidekick of Scott.

Saving mom takes precedence over saving the world

Saving mom takes precedence over saving the world

The mission is more personal this time around. Hank and Hope believe that Janet didn’t die amid an experimental trip into a quantum molecular state. Instead, they think she merely became trapped in that parallel state of existence. Hank and Hope want to risk everything to find Janet and bring her back to the real world. Scott jumps in on the mission despite the fact that he’s trapped by house arrest for violating his probation when he engaged in the superhero battle royale in “Captain America: Civil War.”

Scott wants to help as a means of rebuilding his frayed friendship with Hank and rekindle his romance with Hope. But there are several bumps to contend with. An FBI agent (Randall Park) is relentlessly trying to prove that Hank is violating his house arrest. A mysterious figure called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) keeps showing up at the worst moments to fight them over access to the quantum realm. A sleazy arms dealer (Walton Goggins) is determined to have Hank’s bridge to the quantum realm at all costs.

Fast-paced and funny, but also shallow in many places

shallow in many places

Having to contend with all these challenges ensures that the film is relentlessly paced and never boring. As the film rolls, the audience finds out that the the arms dealer is a buffoon. Ghost turns out to have a surprisingly sympathetic reason to capture the bridge. All of this together means that there’s not enough tension from villainy to really sustain viewer interest at a pitch-perfect level.

Instead, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” proves to be a fun romp, but not one that’s completely compelling to blockbuster fans at the level of the “Avengers” movies. Rudd does a great job again. It’s fun to see Douglas getting a high-profile role in the twilight years of his career. But Pfeiffer barely gets any screen time in this go-round and her absence is glaring considering that her addition is being hyped.

On-screen romance could set off a few real-life sparks

few real-life sparks

The biggest breakthrough in the film is Lilly, who proves to be sly in addition to engaging in plenty of inventive, impressive heroics. But the biggest star of all is the effects team. This pick might seem to be an obvious kudo to give in a superhero film. But when one considers that this movie includes giant Pez dispensers as weapons and Ant-Man turning into a 60-foot-tall menace to the arms dealer’s getaway boat, it is high praise indeed.

So, is this movie date-worthy? It’s certainly not going to inspire deep discussions. But laughs and a little romance presented tastefully are always a good combination. In the heart (and heat!) of summer, that’s plenty to make it an evening to remember.

The breakdown

Action: 10

Romance: 8

Laughs: 10

Story: 7

Characters and performances: 9

Overall: 8.8 (out of 10)