The silver screens (and much of reality) were pretty grim last week, so it's time to have some fun.
Ant-Man and the Wasp, opening on Thursday, July 5, at the Whistler Village 8, proves that Marvel can pull massive hits out of second-string comic characters (hi there, Thor) and have a good time doing it, while DC struggles to get any real traction out of their top-shelf titles (Wonder Woman is carrying DC right now).
Much of this is because Marvel understands stupid fun. Where DC is brooding like a second-year theatre student, Marvel is cracking jokes, kicking ass, hiring comic geniuses like Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and, this week, giving Peyton Reed a second Ant-Man movie. (Side note: Reed also made Bring It On, which belongs in a flicks-that-defined-their-decade box set with Clueless, Fast Times, and Dazed & Confused.)
And Reed delivers. Ant-Man and the Wasp wasn't planned as some sort of building block to that dumb Avengers: Infinity War universe-climax flick that came out long enough ago that I've already forgotten it (for the record: April 27, 2018). So instead we get a more personal story focused on a new dynamic duo—no one has to save the entire universe here, and it's a refreshing break.
Paul Rudd (Clueless, Anchorman) is back as the size-shifting Ant-Man with B.C.-girl Evangeline Lilly (Lost) sliding deep into kick-ass mode as the Wasp. The plot is jumbled and confusing—there's a mission to save original Ant-Man Dr. Hank Pym's wife who has been sub-atomically shrunken and stuck in "the Quantum Realm." There's a three-party hunt for Pym's tiny shrunken lab and giant tech, and there are at least two scenes where bad guys explain their evil plans to people tied to chairs.
But the jumble is OK because once you buy into the shrink/expand realities of the Ant-Man universe (giant Pez dispensers!), the action, comedy and cast can carry the film, even at two-plus hours.
Played expertly by everyman Rudd, Ant-Man is not really superhero material—and he knows it. As an ex-crook on house arrest, he's more interested in trying to co-parent a child than beat the tar out of bad guys. Evangeline Lilly's Wasp is game though. She brings all the piss and vinegar. With multiple villains—a mysterious ghost woman, a black market arms dealer, and Ant-Man's parole officer (played hilariously by The Interview star Randall Park)—the stakes are not that high for anyone. But the fun factor is. Ant-Man and the Wasp zings!
Sticking with comedy, the download of the week is Three Amigos! now available on iTunes (but don't search "THE Three Amigos" or you won't find it.) Released in 1986, this one is a career highpoint for director John Landis (American Werewolf in London, Spies Like Us, The Blues Brothers) but, similar to Ant-Man, the main accolades belong to the cast.
Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short star as 1916 silent film stars best known for playing three singing, gun-slinging cowboys on the silver screen. Hired for what they think is a public appearance with an "infamous" Mexican theatre star named El Guapo (Alfonso Arau, killing it), the amigos arrive in Mexico and slowly start to realize life is a lot different on the other side of the silver screen. With the lines between bravery and idiocy blurred, the three spoiled actors have no choice but to saddle up and ride. All the while learning what it truly means to be an amigo.
Three Amigos! was written by Steve Martin and Saturday Night Live boss Lorne Michaels, with musician Randy Newman contributing three original (and totally kickass) songs—"My Little Buttercup," "Blue Shadows," and "The Ballad of Three Amigos."
The script was recognized as genius as soon as it was completed and Steven Spielberg was even interested at one point, stating that he wanted Martin, Robin Williams and Bill Murray to star (He made E.T. instead). While the film didn't slay at the box office, the idea of movie stars unknowingly taking part in real danger was recycled in Galaxy Quest, Tropic Thunder and even Pixar's A Bug's Life.
As the template, Three Amigos! remains pure comedic gold and the kind of stupid fun the world needs right now. It's best re-watched with a child so you can spend the rest of the day saying things like, "We all have our own El Guapo to face, kid. Right now yours is unloading this dishwasher..."
Viva Los Amigos!