Paul Rudd is the second most-likable guy in Hollywood, right behind Tom Hanks. He’s likable again in ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ so it’s too bad I can’t say the same for Peyton Reed’s third film in the series. Jonathan Majors is compelling as Kang the Conqueror but by the film’s finale his character is diminished to a minor annoyance over a major threat. 31 films deep in the MCU means there are bound to be a few duds. The barrage of overblown effects and a story devoid of emotion makes this entry a bottom dweller. The good news, Phase 5 can only get better.

Life is good for Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Rudd). After saving the universe with his time travel idea in “Avengers: Endgame” he’s become a best-selling author thanks to his memoir “Look Out for the Little Guy.” As he walks the streets of San Francisco, people wave and ask for pictures with their pets, and occasionally yell out, “Thank you, Spider-Man!”

Scott’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), now 18, has been working with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, on a new contraption that sends a signal down to the Quantum Realm (a secret universe within the multiverse) which sets off Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), the original Wasp, Hank’s wife, and mother to Scott’s girlfriend Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Janet was trapped in the QR for 30 years so when she yells “Turn it off, now!” there’s got to be a good reason. Too late!

Within seconds the entire family is sucked into the Quantum Realm setting off a mind-numbing barrage of CGI effects. The secret universe looks like a live-action version of Disney’s 2022 animated film “Strange World” complete with weird plants, giant creatures, and a cute jelly-like critter named Veb (voiced by David Dastmalchian), in “Strange World” the slimy thing was called Splat.

We soon learn the cause of Janet’s anxiety. When she was trapped in the Quantum Realm for the first time, she met a time-traveler named Kang (Jonathan Majors) who became stranded in the Realm after his ship’s Power Core malfunctioned. That’s not exactly true and now he rules the secret underworld as Kang the Conqueror, who is supposed to be the MCU’s Phase 5 version of Thanos. Sure, he’s got 40th-century tech and the ability to disintegrate enemies with lasers of energy, but the one thing he doesn’t have is Ortho Home Defense pesticide. Too bad.

Majors is the film’s selling point. As a villain, he certainly has the chops and soon you’ll see him as the baddie in “Creed III” taking on Michael B. Jordan. Rumor has it, he took real punches while filming the movie. Of course, he did, he’s Jonathan (insert expletive) Majors! In “Quantumania” the actor’s potential to be a great villain is diminished by Jeff Loveness’ script. The “Rick and Morty” scribe’s listless MCU entry forgoes the “less-is-more” approach the Ant-Man films are known for, neglecting the A-list cast to spotlight the monotonous special effects.

The film’s H.G. Wells-like finale is entertaining but also absurd and then there’s Kang’s right-hand man M.O.D.O.K. (an acronym for Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing), a robotic Humpty Dumpty with Corey Stoll reprising his role as Darren Cross who puts the “dic” in ridiculous. The evil floating head with Stoll’s anamorphic face is one of the many instances in “Quantumania” that feel more like a parody of a superhero film rather than the real deal as if Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim were attempting to sabotage the film (which I would be down for).

“Quantumania” hints at a father-daughter bonding between Scott and Cassie but it’s a fleeting moment in the Marvel spectacle, and what a missed opportunity especially since Kathryn Newton is so good. The same goes for Jonathan Majors whose appearance is squandered by Reed’s obsession to create a visually impressive world.

When I first met my wife, we went on a date to see a Rambo film. As explosions and gunfire filled the screen, I glanced over and found her sleeping. I couldn’t understand how she managed to doze off during the effects-laden finale. I finally get it. You may not catch a nap during “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” but you’ll probably glance at your phone or watch several times.

(2 stars)

Now showing in theaters

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Joe Friar head and shoulders

Joe Friar

Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.