Friday, July 28, 2006

The Ant Bully

The Ant Bully
Written and directed by John A. Davis from the book by John Nickle
Warner Bros.

Now we're getting into the CG cartoons that can be labeled with that pretentious critic's word, derivative. Fingerprints from tons of other movies permeate the latest family outing, including previous CG antoons Antz and A Bug's Life, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, a smidgen of Star Wars, a little bit of Watership Down and The Secret of NIMH, and for good measure, although this would have to be entirely coincidence due to the production time on these movies, this year's own Over the Hedge.

And it's not like it's bad; it just doesn't stand out. In fact, when we look at 2006 and the crowded family CG market, one where every major studio has decided to make a splash, it looks like they were desperate to have a computer toon of their own, no matter what. This one was produced in part by Tom Hanks and his PlayTone company, and the animation is great and the voice talent is superb. But there's nothing much left after that to remember it.

Lucas (Zach Tyler) is an unpopular kid who gets bullied by some big doofus, and he takes out his aggression on the frontyard anthill. Silly him, he doesn't know that ants speak English and have families. At the apex of his rage, as the parents leave for some sort of trip and leave grandmother (Lily Tomlin) in charge, he signs a contract for evil exterminator Stan Beals (Paul Giamatti) to come and have wicked fun wiping out the anthill in the next day or so. The ants below know Lucas as "The Destroyer" and wizard ant Zoc (Nicolas Cage) has been looking for a final ingredient to make a potion that will shrink Lucas down so he can be tried in ant court. He finally makes it work, and he is tried, and the queen ant (Meryl Streep) sentences him to live as an ant--see what it's like. Zoc's girlfriend Hova (Julia Roberts) takes him under her wing to guide him as he faces dangers like wasps, frogs, climbing steep surfaces, and ultimately, the exterminator he himself hired.

The movie has sort of a liberal bent to it, not that it tries to beat people over the head with politics or anything--but the fact that the ants want to kill Lucas during the trial but are enlightened to let him live and rehabilitate is one of those little themes, and the big theme is that revenge begets revenge and so on, no matter who feels they are in the right.

It's colorful, it's decently done, it just won't blow anyone away. Soon to be forgotten along with most of the others of its kind from this year.


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