July 30, 2006

Movie Review: The Ant Bully

The latest CG film to grace the screens is The Ant Bully, a tale of a picked upon boy who takes his frustrations out on the ants, the ants then rise up to teach the boy a lesson. Now, is it me, or does it feel like every week or two there is a new computer animated movie hitting the multiplex, with more on the horizon? What I wouldn't give for a traditional, hand drawn animated film on the big screen, but that is neither here nor there.

Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler) is a small boy who gets picked on by the neighborhood bully. These increasingly frequent attacks are frustrating Lucas, or Peanut to his mother. He is becoming more and more bitter, lashing out at his mother or whoever else happens to get in his way, including the ants. His front yard is the home of a large ant colony, which is frequently attacked by Lucas. The ants are also becoming frustrated by who they call The Destroyer.

A wizard ant, by the name of Zoc (Nicolas Cage), is working on a potion to help get even with the human. The plan is to shrink Lucas down to their size, and eat him, if Zoc has his way. His girlfriend, Hova (Julia Roberts), has other plans. She is assigned to teach him to be an ant. And so, the lesson begins. As the story progresses, we watch as the boy learns a new way of dealing with problems, and being tolerant of others, and the lesson goes both ways. Be an ant conformist, or you will not survive.

While the story is verbose and obvious, and the primary character that is generally unlikeable, the visuals keep up a fast pace and features a couple of striking action sequences and some nice animation. The flooding of the colony via garden hose was quite dynamic, watching the ants flee as there homes were destroyed. Beyond that, there is a great battle when the colony is attacked by a hoarde of wasps, and later when the insects all work together to take on exterminator (Paul Giamatti). Overall, the animation may not be Pixar level, but they did a nice job at geting detail into the film, and the final film looks quite good.

The voice cast is A list, with a little bit of the B thrown in for good measure. I am guessing that the A listers were used as a marketing tool since the story was a bit lacking, but they all do a very good job. Meryl Streep is the colony's Queen, and she brings real sense of regality to the role. The aforementioned stars are also effective, particularly Nicolas Cage. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the presence of the B-movie god, Bruce Campbell, as the pompous scout ant, Fugax. Campbell is enough of a reason to see anything at least once, and he doesn't disappoint here, bringing a hammy ant to life.

Bottomline. The Ant Bully left me, more or less, flat. It wasn't awful by any stretch, but it didn't take any chances. In the end it is little more than another bug movie, and a lesser one than Antz and A Bug's Life. Still, the kids will probably like it, while the parents wait for the end. The animation is good, if it only had the story to back it up.

Mildly Recommended.
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