This is a big weekend as Marvel has the chance to kick off phase three of it’s neverending cinematic universe. It goes against Judd Apatow’s collaboration with this year’s It girl, Amy Schumer, in Trainwreck. If you choose to see both movies, you’ll notice that trains are actually a common theme shared by both.
If you asked me over a year ago what my most anticipated movie of 2015 would be, I would have quickly said, “Ant-Man!” Yes, even with an exclamation mark because I’m essentially 12. Yet, once writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) left after some contention with Marvel, this funny idea for a fun Marvel adventure dropped from my radar completely.
Since the time Wright and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) left the project, it has since undergone script changes by Paul Rudd and Adam McKay (and Marvel head Kevin Feige) to fit closer with Marvel’s house style. After several attempts to reach a competent director, they snagged Peyton Reed, who is best known for Bring It On and Yes Man.
Unlike most of the Marvel movies, Ant-Man doesn’t need a tie-in or introduction with other movies. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a recently freed ex-con, who has a penchant for theft. He wants to leave his life of crime and quick cash behind and instead spend time with his daughter. His newfound boring life doesn’t last long as he’s recruited by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym was the original Ant-Man decades ago until a tragedy made him reconsider his role as a hero. Now, as his corporation is about to be overthrown by his apprentice, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Pym plans to use Lang to stop the Ant-Man technology from being used for evil purposes.
Ant-Man never goes for the standard “end of the world” scenario. In that way, it’s pretty refreshing. The events of the movie build up to a grand heist. However, this is no Oceans 11. There is no clever payoff.
Paul Rudd being cast as a superhero was a surprise nearing Chris Pratt levels. Unlike Pratt, Rudd’s career will not change because of this role. He is typically fine as the unassuming smarmy charmer, and this feels no different. The only acting Rudd does is by being as surprised by his abs as the viewer is.
Evangeline Lilly plays Hope van Dyne, the somewhat estranged daughter of Hank Pym. Yet, even her untrusting relationship with her father is never quite clear. Lilly is only there in the movie to glare in every scene while providing endless exposition.
Michael Douglas brings much needed gravitas to Ant-Man. Without him, this would feel like an extended Agents of Shield episode with a slightly bigger budget. I would have almost rather seen his time as Ant-Man than the sleepwalking con-man that is Lang.
Corey Stoll, who ends up being the villainous version of Ant-Man with his YellowJacket costume, joins the ranks of terrible Marvel villains that never posed a threat in the first place. From the first time you see him, he comes off as so nefarious that he’d be a fun, campy villain if he ever learned how to smile.
Speaking of smiling, Michael Pena steals the movie as Lang’s closest confidante. I’m not sure if his character was written as so optimistic or if Pena was just pleased that he was in a Marvel movie.
The pacing of this two hour movie is completely off. It shows that at least four people had their hands in the script. The entire tone feels muted in terms of thrills and laughs. It is tone-deaf. There is little fun to be had and even less style. If you’re familiar with Edgar Wright’s filmography, you can almost hand-pick the scenes that weren’t changed from his draft. Yet with Reed’s pedestrian directing, it feels like Edgar Wright Diet Sprite.
On a positive note, the third act ranks as one of the best in any Marvel movie. The miniaturized fight is fast-paced and never takes itself too seriously.
After all is said and done, Marvel will be successful at making Ant-Man a well-known hero that will fit in well enough in the big picture of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War 1 & 2. Over any other funny Marvel movies, this should have been the funniest. Unfortunately, it’s about as funny as Thor. C
Amy Schumer is a big deal right now in the world of comedy. Her Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, has been going strong for two years. At this point in her career, she has the option to work with any number of comedy directors. She ended up choosing Judd Apatow (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up). However, she did get the chance to write the script, so hopefully the movie feels fresh, right? Right?
Apatow hit his peak just 10 years ago. Yet, his smarter-than-thou approach to comedy comes off as pretty shallow when shock value is spread through the dull parts of his movies, just to keep it interesting. And typically, his movies are 40 minutes too long. Apatow’s protege, Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy) has been able to take the parts of Apatow’s movies that work and make them work for large audiences.
Amy Schumer plays Amy in Trainwreck. She begins the movie by narrating a flashback of her father explaining to she and her sister that monogamy is a myth. Only by playing a very large field will you find happiness. She then adopted this even to the present day. Her approach to sex and relationships is as shallow as you’d expect any cinematic alpha male to behave.
While on a project, she is sent to interview a famous sports surgeon (Bill Hader), she quickly decides that he will be her next fling. Yet, their relationship is different from anything she’s dealt with before and she has to decide whether to move on or try to deal with commitment.
If you’re familiar with Schumer’s comedy, this will be your chance to see it played out on the big screen. The movie plays the laughs hard and fast, immediately shocking you and making you gut laugh within the first 15 minutes. The humor comes from Schumer’s ability to mock herself and also turn male stereotypes on their respective heads.
Even if you aren’t a fan of crass humor, you’d still find it difficult to stifle the laughs.
The biggest risk in the movie is also its safest play. Several sports stars, most notably Lebron James, play hypersensitive versions of themselves. If you’ve seen the trailers, you wouldn’t be mistaken to think that James plays the third lead. He’s far from embarrassing in the movie. Yet, it feels like he’s doing a sketch in a high school drama class. His entire role consists of him being slightly more effeminate than usual. He is joined by a half-dozen other professional athletes. The script justifies a cameo or two, but after a while, it gets tiring. It starts to feel like Entourage’s revolving door of celebrity cameos.
Where the movie starts to drag is in the template. If you were to storyboard this movie without the Schumer jokes, it would be every other romantic comedy. There might not a chase in the airport, but the reconnection is about as cliche. You’d think the tropes, mixed with Schumer’s humor, would feel fresh. Instead, it just feels like she is sinking into the tropes and it makes the two hour movie feel too long, 40 minutes too long to be exact. If you’re looking for an outright parody of the standard rom-com tropes of the ’90s, go watch We Came Together, with Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd (Hey, Ant-Man!).
I don’t know if I was relieved to have the movie come to an end or if the humor hit as strongly as it did to begin with, but the end did bring the laughs back to a comedically uneven flick.
Lebron James presents Trainwreck is a good one-time watch. B-