Twelve movies in seven years. And the promise of at least ten more in the next four years. It’s clear that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige doesn’t subscribe to the ol’ adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

If you think about it, history has given us the same number of Marvel movies and Star Trek movies… and Star Trek has had a twenty-nine year head start. So I suppose it’s understandable that for every Avengers we get a clunker like Thor: The Dark World.

Now comes Ant-Man, the final movie in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (yes, there are so many movies they’ve had to split them into phases), and though it has plenty of things going for it (Paul Rudd chief among them), it unfortunately ends up feeling like the scrawny little kid who desperately wants to join the varsity team, but can’t quite make it.

Rudd is Scott Lang, who we first meet as he’s being released from a three-year prison stint for white collar burglary. He’s likable enough, but he’s been absent from his little girl’s life, and his wife (Judy Greer) has moved on with a local cop (Bobby Cannavale). Plus, he can’t keep a job (his heave-ho from Baskin-Robbins is one of the film’s funnier moments).

Enter Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), an ex-SHIELD researcher who in 1989 discovered a particle that can make a human the size of an insect. Realizing the implications of his discovery and the high likelihood of it being hijacked for evil, he hid it away. His one-time assistant Darren Cross (Cory Stoll), though, kept up the research and has finally figured it out for himself… and, wouldn’t you know it, has hijacked it for evil. So Pym recruits Lang to become Ant-Man and destroy Cross’ research with the help of Pym’s kick-butt daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

On its own, Ant-Man actually works really well. Rudd’s comic timing is spot-on, and there’s enough humor to make up for the lack of suspense and action (save for the finale blow-out) that we’ve come to expect from Marvel. But try as it might to shoehorn its way into the Marvel family (a couple of familiar faces make an appearance), Ant-Man can’t quite shake its red-headed stepchild-ness.

Director Peyton Reed (Yes Man) does an admirable job, steering clear of the gravitas that other Marvel directors (*cough Kenneth Branagh) have felt compelled to bring to the franchise, and Reed also gives the 3D the attention it deserves (it’s perfect for when Lang gets shrunk down), but there’s frankly just not enough here. Ant-Man winds up feeling like something that, ten years ago, would have been a straight-to-DVD release.

Note: Being a Marvel movie, of course there is both a mid-credits and post-credits scene, so if you’re so inclined, stick around.

3/5 stars