Director: John A. Davis
Voice Talents: Jake T. Austin, Nicolas Cage,
Alan Cumming, Zach Tyler Eisen, Paul Giamatti, Myles Jeffrey,
Regina King, Cheri Oteri, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Lily
RunTime: 1 hr 28 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Day: 9 August 2006
Academy Award nominated filmmaker John A. Davis (Jimmy Neutron:
Boy Genius) and producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman (The
Polar Express), The Ant Bully tells a witty and heartwarming
story about a 10-year-old boy who embarks on a remarkable
journey. New in town, friendless and tormented by a neighborhood
bully, young Lucas Nickle has been taking out his frustration
on the innocent ant hill in his yard. But one day the ants
retaliate. Using a magic potion, they shrink Lucas down to
ant size and sentence him to live like an ant in their colony.
In this strange new world Lucas will learn important lessons
about friendship, get a whole new perspective on life and
ultimately find the courage to stand up for himself.
Based on a popular children’s book by John Nickle, “The
Ant Bully” is a journey into the already penetrated
world of ants and everything entomological. It’s the
first of three big budget CGI animated features that we will
be expecting in the short span of two months. Although boasting
the most impressive roster of star voice talents, you’ll
still be hard pressed to distinguish this from the rest. Ultimately,
it has a been-there-done-that vibe that permeates the relatively
dated animation, which in terms of story and animations has
nothing of notable value to add to the already congested library
of CGI films.
its greatest and unintentional promotion would be the ludicrous
accusations of political subtext. It has drawn some criticisms
of subtly infusing communist rhetoric in its prevailing theme
of communal strength in numbers and conformity for the greater
good, but that’s just hogwash. If anything, its theme
and certain sequences insinuate Buddhist philosophies more
one too many atomic wedgies by the local bully, Lucas a.k.a.
Peanut (Zach Tyler) takes out his frustrations on the anthill
and insects in his lawn. This cycle of cruelty earns him the
title of Peanut the Destroyer, amongst the ant colony that
remarkably learnt how to speak English, has a stable government
and can perform magic. In fact, to this highly advanced and
sophisticated species, humans are considered the primitive
philistines. Local ant wizard, Zoc (Nicholas Cage) gets his
revenge by creating a potion to shrink Lucas into the size
of an ant. As Lucas is brought to face justice, the Ant Queen
(an ethereally voiced, Meryl Streep) decrees that he be taught
the life of an ant before returning him home because it takes
a village to raise a kid and it apparently also takes a village
to edify misguided little boys.
the obvious allusions of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”
and of “A Bug’s Life” when man-made and
arthropodic dangers threaten the greenhorn and his newfound
cadre, this effort is relatively low-key. Based on a short
story, it reiterates its simple message by affirming its fundamentals
over and over again. It’s a foregone conclusion that
discovering morals and learning valuable life lessons will
be the cardinal aspect of this film. Becoming an uncomplicated
piece of lyrical yarn of togetherness, strength of community
and love for all living things, it just narrowly avoids becoming
too saccharine and cloying.
six-legged characters are presented the way that they end.
Lacking the idiosyncratic neurosis of Woody Allen in “Antz”
or Dave Foley’s self-mocking tomfoolery in “A
Bug’s Life”, these ants are not memorable nor
are they significant. The technical aspects of the animation
are pretty to look at and bears heavy and instantly recognisable
resemblance to fans of writer-director, John A. Davis’s
“Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius”. But that’s
where the similarities end. As opposed to its droves of animated
predecessors, it has very little tongue-in-cheek and offhand
humour for the adults, a staunch kids movie through and through.
Tyler’s voice talents lend Lucas a helping hand in establishing
some much-needed humanity in the cold hard world that he finds
himself in. With its big budget and a decision of spending
a huge chunk of it on A-list voice talents, it seems like
a risk that did not pay off. Julia Roberts’ participation
in the film appears to be a costly mistake. I just could not
place her voice in the film, which could have just as easily
been misconstrued as Ellen DeGeneres. And that’s not
something a marquee performer should elicit from the audience.
In this case, the lesser known but always imposing Bruce Campbell
was the bigger draw for me. Growing up on his trademark physical
swagger and masculine demeanour, he still conveyed the same
feeling through his unmistakably eminent voice.
from a misfire, “The Ant Bully” is still a fun
little break from reality especially for the younger audience.
It’s just a garden-variety feature that will always
be bullied by the bigger and timeless cinematic fare. And
at a mere 88 minutes, you can’t help but wonder if it’s
just another shot in the dark for CGI films. No matter what
is said however, family films, even the generic ones are still
a huge draw for everyone. It’s just a matter of when
the overkill starts becoming salient and the fear of eroding
standards becomes a reality.
run-of-the-mill kids movie that’s short, sweet but ultimately
by Justin Deimen