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'Ant-Man and the Wasp' buzzes to $76 million debut

"Ant-Man and the Wasp" features Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly in the title roles. 

It’s another Marvel comedy — you know, like “Thor” or a PG-13 cousin to “Deadpool” — and it’s highly entertaining. The finale of “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” though, has a little, uh, sting.

The story begins with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) under house arrest because of a plea deal he took after he became involved with the Avengers.

Scott is almost done serving his time. While he has been at home, he has found quite a few ways to entertain himself (we see this accompanied by arguably the greatest tune on a soundtrack this year: The Partridge Family’s “Come On Get Happy” theme.) The people Scott is closest to include Luis (Michael Pena) and Scott’s daughter Cassie.

Meanwhile, FBI Agent Woo (Randall Park) still thinks Scott may be up to something, and stays close by just in case he can catch Scott sneaking out and thereby earn a longer sentence.

Scott has some fences to mend with Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and her dad Hank (Michael Douglas.) But he contacts them after he has a weird dream about Hope’s mother (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Scott doesn’t stay housebound for long. He ends up with Hope and Hank while they face a new adversary named “Ghost” (Hanna John-Kamen, “Game of Thrones”)

You don’t want to miss the extra scenes in the credits. They’re part of the overall Marvel Universe, and they’ll have fans trying to figure out exactly what’s going to happen next year.

Scott is one of the most likeable Marvel characters. He’s a nice guy, the sort you’d want to sit down and have a beer or a cup of coffee with. The Ant-Man segments and movies are light-hearted for the most part, with clever one-liners and entertaining character development (and yes, this has a wonderful Stan Lee cameo.)

The tender father-daughter relationship between Scott and his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) is wonderful, because it feels so authentic. Fortson and Rudd have an exquisite chemistry.

Incidentally, I’m a fan of the television series “The Shield” from years back, and it’s nice to see Walton Goggins in so many film roles — here he’s an unscrupulous businessman.

You know how sometimes a movie will resonate with you because of something you’re interested in or just learned about? Well, lately, I’ve been reading about tardigrades (look ’em up — microscopic critters also called “water bears.”)

And whadddaya know? There are tardigrades in this movie. How cool is that?

But let’s not pretend that this is a science lesson. It’s a well-written adventure with terrific special effects a lot of laughs … until that scene at the end that will leave you wondering.

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.