Though a familiarity with what's been going down in the Marvel Cinematic Universe certainly doesn't hurt, it's not required to enjoy the latest adventure of Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man. Rudd's criminal-turned-hero has been re-criminalized as a result of the side he took during "Captain America: Civil War," so when this picture kicks off, he's stuck on house arrest for three more days (under the purview of Randall Park's comically feckless F.B.I. agent).
Adventure comes calling when the first Ant-Man -- brilliant scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) -- and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) -- a.k.a. super-suited the Wasp -- demand Scott's help to recover Hope's mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), from the "quantum realm." She was lost in action there 30 years ago, and Scott holds the key to finding her.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp" keeps its two hours fairly fleet by hurtling through its plot. The three stooges who work with Scott (Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, and Tip "T.I." Harris) make a welcome return, as do Scott's hero-worshipping daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) and her mom (Judy Greer) and stepdad (Bobby Cannavale). If the first film felt more carefully laid out, the sequel succeeds in stoking some Pixar-style emotion in its family dynamics: While the events of "Ant-Man and the Wasp" may not mean much to the MCU at large, they're life-and-death matters to these characters, who risk it all for love.
Part of the fun of the "Ant-Man" films comes from their retro roots in '50s and '60s sci-fi films. The imagination at work here feels like literal child's play, especially when it involves playing with scale. Ant-Man and the Wasp can be normal size, tiny or huge using Hank's tech, and so can buildings and cars, which leads to an intricately designed wild-ride car-chase sequence on the streets of San Francisco beyond the wildest dreams of the stunt team behind "Bullitt."
The rest of the fun comes from an impressive core cast in sync with the enterprise's good humor and whimsy. With Pfeiffer just getting started in this playground, a threequel seems inevitable, and if it can match the sequel's fun-loving competence and retain the series' sense of anything-goes wonder, we'll welcome more big things in small packages. Put simply, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" is a good time at the movies.