I’ll be honest, I had low expectations for Marvel’s newest film, ANT-MAN. I have no foreknowledge of the character (be real -he’s pretty far down the Marvel totem pole) but I do love Paul Rudd (if you don’t, you’re probably a Communist). Last summer’s surprise hit, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, prepared me to be at least hopeful when settling in for this Peyton Reed-helmed film.

ANT-MAN has had a troubled development history. Originally to be directed and written by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Wright was removed from the project by Marvel brass. Peyton Reed (Down with Love) was brought in to direct, while the screenplay was rewritten by Adam McKay (Anchorman) and Rudd himself.

While we won’t ever know what a purely Wright written ANT-MAN would have been like, the resulting film is delightful from start to finish. Rudd is hilarious and likable while still nailing the emotional core of Scott Lang’s struggles. It’s the funniest Marvel film to date with literal LOL’s provided by sidekicks Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian and T.I. Peña in particular sent the preview audience into hysterics repeatedly.

Rudd carries the film with ease, but the heaviest lifting is done by nerd goddess Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit), who brings depth to a character that could have easily been one-note. Michael Douglas plays crotchety well, while Corey Stoll (House of Cards) chews the scenery as a big time executive with daddy issues.

The visual effects are, as usual, top-notch. Seeing the world from an ant’s point of view is loads of fun and carefully thought out. The film is screaming to be seen in 3D, so if you have the option, go for the glasses.

Unlike GUARDIANS, ANT-MAN ties in much closer to the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I won’t reveal here what other characters make cameo appearances, this film does a great job of setting ANT-MAN up to be a fixture in the world of the Avengers.

Be sure to stick around through the entire credits sequence – there is a mid-credits scene that will send nerds over the edge in joy, and a post-credits scene that whets the appetite for next springs’ CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.

Kevin Feige, the executive producer mastermind behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has done it again. ANT-MAN takes the heist genre and twists into the Marvel canon with ease, while Paul Rudd proves up to the task of playing a buffed-up-with-a-heart-of-gold superhero.

ANT-MAN scurries into theaters July 17.