'Ant-Man and The Wasp': Lacks sting of original

Ant-Man and the Wasp finds Ant-Man in his bathtub, dreaming of Michelle Pfeiffer.

Scarface Pfeiffer?

Fabulous Baker Boys, crawling-across-the-piano Pfeiffer?

Married to the Mob Pfeiffer?

Nothing like that. The images bouncing  around his brain are initially unexplained. About all that Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) knows is that the woman in the dreams is the wife of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the scientist who invented the Ant-Man suit that bends the laws of physics and allows its wearer to shrink down to ant size.

Or vice versa. When last seen in Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man was in Germany and the suit’s size-altering mechanism was on the fritz – he was just as likely to explode in size as to shrink.

Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t waste too much debriefing us on the events of Civil War – it’s possible that writer-director Peyton Reed didn’t understand them, and on that score he’s not alone. Suffice it to say Ant-Man’s antics in Germany got him in trouble with U.S. authorities. The movie picks up the story two years later — he’s been under house arrest, and is just two days from being released with a clean slate, going back into business with his buddy Luis (Michael Peña).

>> READ MORE: ‘Ant-Man’: Mighty small, but still mighty

>> READ MORE: ‘Captain America: Civil War’: The Marvel juggernaut, super-sized

Then he gets those psychic Pfeiffer-grams. Lang feels he owes it to tell Pym, even if Germany left him in Dutch with Pym and daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Still, they’re excited to hear about the dreams, and flashbacks tell us why: Turns out Pym’s wife, Janet (Pfeiffer), was among the first to test the super-shrinking technology, which can riskily make people so small. they go into a subatomic Quantum Realm.

This briefly happened to Lang, and when it happened to Janet 30 years earlier, she got stuck there. Lately, Pym and Hope have been wondering if she’s still alive, and they see Lang’s dreams as evidence that she’s reaching out from her subatomic prison, asking to be brought home. So, they start assembling parts for a machine that will take them into the Quantum Realm. The same components are sought by a crook (Walton Goggins), and there’s also a mysterious figure called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who materializes out of thin air, usually in a bad mood, to gum up the works.

There’s too much convoluted plot (Laurence Fishburne’s character changes sides 400 times), and the movie at times feels big and ponderous, like Ant-Man when his malfunctioning suit does the opposite of its normal effect, and he wades through San Francisco Bay like Godzilla. There are also too few jokes, and though Rudd and Peña work like mad to get laughs, they  come up well short of optimal levels achieved in Thor: Ragnarok.

>> READ MORE: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is laughable. In a good way

Still, it’s good to see the MCU expand to include Pfeiffer. The Quantum Realm is real enough in Hollywood – a place where women go when they age, shrinking from view until they become invisible, trapped in a dimension with no exit.

Welcome to the full-employment Marvel party, Michelle.

MOVIES

Ant-Man and the Wasp

  • Directed by Peyton Reed. With Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hannah John-Kamen, Michael Douglas and Walton Goggins. Distributed by Walt Disney.
  • Running time: 2 hours, 5 mins.
  • Parents guide: PG-13
  • Playing at: Area theaters