So I went to see Ant-Man, and I liked it. I’m not really going to review it because it already has a sizeable budget and its own mega-marketing campaign that is surely swarming you this very moment. I just want to make a small point.
Firstly, the film is very cute. If you like the oddball Marvel movies that take themselves even less seriously then the rest of them do, then Ant-Man is a film for you. It reminded me, more than anything, of Thor. There’s just the right amount of self deprecating humour and originality to give it its own spotlight without separating it completely from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Beyond that, there was a moment toward the end of the film that really stood out to me. (The following could be considered a spoiler, so be warned.)
Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang. Scott has a troubled past as a skilled thief, but has recently been released from prison and is determined not to return to his old antics.
He also has a daughter, Cassie, who loves him unconditionally. However, his wife has remarried and he now has to compete with the new stepfather. Someone with whom he pales in comparison. Sound familiar?
Anyone who has ever seen a family comedy from the 90’s will know this territory quite well. Let me throw out a few of the “guy who needs to earn his family back” stories that come to mind.
While I did enjoy these movies, there was something that bugged me about them.
(Alright, they don’t all land. Anyways…)
The main character was always a loser father or bad husband of some kind. Either he was a cutthroat capitalist who dodged his family in favour of his career, or a naive loveable screwup who was unable to provide for them financially. Now, that’s fair enough because it’s all part of the hero’s journey. The main character needs to be flawed so that they can learn something throughout the film and become a better person by the end of it.
The absurd component was the inclusion of an intrusive “new dad”. This was the ex-wife’s new boyfriend or husband who seemed to want to bond with the children in a way that we’re supposed to hate. The problem was that I never really did. For the sake of the film, sure, he was the antagonist. I could see that their love for someone else’s kids was never going to be as special as their actual parent’s was. Still, none of these pseudo-fathers were cruel people. They didn’t have bad intention. They were genuinely in love with the mother and wanted to provide the best for their baggage…I mean children!
See, that’s why I’m in awe of these shiny goofy daddy stand-ins. If I ever had kids, I’d be the original father who messes everything up. I might love my children, but provide for them? I can hardly cover my rent from month to month. I lent all my money to my last roommate, who then ran away with it, and once pointlessly bought a $600 ring for a girl who took it and broke up with me the following week! Screw up? That’s about all I do.
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah!
When you really stop to think about it, here’s the conceit:
A father fails his children and/or wife at every turn, continues to screw up as the film unfolds, then has an epiphany and promises to change his ways. The family accepts him back because he strung the right words together and all is forgiven. Meanwhile, the guy who stepped in and provided for everyone, while the other douchebag was having his pilgrimage of self reflection, gets the boot for being a bit too square. What a great life lesson!
Listen, I love Mrs. Doubtfire, but I can’t help thinking of that moment when Pierce Brosnan is asked about the children’s “real father”. He says “the guy’s a loser”. You know what…he’s right! It’s even worse than that. Daniel Hillard quits his job over a pointless dispute, throws an obnoxious house party that he now can’t afford, and then dresses up as a nanny so he can invade his ex-wife’s home because shared custody isn’t enough. The guy shouldn’t be in marriage court, he should be in jail! Take a hint, son! Life can only be enjoyed when it’s lived responsibly. If you want to stay a part of the family, how about you show them that you’re worth the effort.
And this is where I fell in love with Ant-Man! It’s completely different! At the end of the movie there’s a moment that should make everyone’s antennae prick up. Scott Lang turns to the “stepfather”, played by Bobby Cannavale, and says 8 criminally under-fused words:
“Thank you…for everything you do for Cassie.”
I can’t tell you how happy I was to be watching a movie that finally thanked the responsible father figure. Better late than never, Hollywood! Sure, they may have the personality of a Fisher Price man and the goofy humour of a geriatric, but this is an important acknowledgement. I’m not just making a mountain out of an anthill! It’s a family film standard that needs to shrink! I hope to see a colony of stories like this in the future.
In fact, the ending bumps up my score a little. I really hope you go and see Ant-Man for this moment alone, but the rest of it is also rather good fun too.
– Rant Over!