A Bug’s Life

Paul Rudd takes on the smallest role of his career in 'Ant-Man'

In Ant-Man, set in San Francisco, scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) must keep the shrinking suit he invented back in the ’60s, which he believes is too dangerous, out of the hands of his former employers, S.H.I.E.L.D.

When Pym discovers that S.H.I.E.L.D. is duplicating experiments on the “Pym particle” formula, he hires burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), just released from San Quentin, to steal the new iteration of the ant-suit. Called the “Yellowjacket,” a bee-size carapace equipped with tiny lasers, the rival suit is the perfect instrument for surveillance and assassination. It will take a village of ants, led telepathically by a pea-size hero, to steal back this terrible weapon.

Ant-Man has to negotiate a narrow path between honoring superhero conventions and avoiding clichés. And for the most part, it delivers what was promised, as well as a few surprises: a fall through the cracks in the floors of a Tenderloin tenement; an itty-bitty fight atop a speeding toy train; and a journey deep into the heart of matter itself, featuring psychedelic chrome doodads that pop out of the ether in 3-D.

Director Peyton Reed sets up the movie as the story of a parallel set of fathers levered into action by their daughters. Scott has to turn to crime to pay child support for an adorable daughter with two front teeth missing; Pym quarrels with his restless thirty-something offspring, Hope (Evangeline Lilly). She’s bitter, with the full wrath of a would-be superheroine whose father won’t let her wear the amazing ant-suit.

There are multiple in-jokes tying this film into the entire Marvel Studios roster. Hearing of the villain’s plot, Scott says, “I think our first task is to call the Avengers!” When one of his pet ants is killed, Scott threatens the villain with a wee fist: “You’re going to regret this!”

This movie about shrinkage has a nice sense of proportion.

‘Ant-Man’ is playing in wide release in the North Bay.

Sonoma County Library