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Overall Rating
3.72

Awesome: 8.51%
Worth A Look72.34%
Average: 4.26%
Pretty Bad: 12.77%
Total Crap: 2.13%

6 reviews, 11 user ratings


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Ant Bully, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Hey Julia, Nice Thorax!"
4 stars

I must admit that when I walked into the screening room to see the new animated film “The Ant Bully,” it was not with the greatest sense of enthusiasm. Having seen virtually every example of the genre to emerge in the last few years, it looked to me like nothing more than yet another attempt to copy the reliable Pixar formula by throwing together shiny CGI animation, numerous pop-culture references and an all-star group of actors cast less for their vocal abilities than for their marquee value. For the sake of the filmmakers, I can only hope that audiences don’t feel the same way that I initially did because the film is much better than it may seem at first glance–this is a smart, funny and charming family film that even has something to say to younger and older viewers alike.

Based on the book by John Nickle, the film begins with young Lucas (Zach Tyler) being picked on by the fearsome local bully for no other reason than because the thug is bigger than he is. Upset and humiliated, Lucas takes out his frustrations on the ant hill in his lawn–something even smaller and more insignificant than himself–by repeatedly stomping it and flooding it with a water hose. To Lucas, the ants are nothing more than a bunch of dumb bugs without any purpose that no one cares about but we discover that isn’t the case–this ant hill houses a thriving and industrious colony that has grown increasingly tired over having their home and food ruined by the one they have dubbed “The Destroyer.” To settle the score, scientist ant Zoc (Nicolas Cage) devises a way to shrink Lucas down to the size of an ant so that he can be taken to their world and face the justice that he deserves.

All that is done and Lucas stands before the Head of Council (Ricardo Montalban) and the rest of the colony to answer to charges that include the unleashing of the “dreaded yellow rain.” Surprisingly, the Queen Ant (Meryl Streep) decides that instead of executing Lucas, she will sentence him to live and work among the ants in order to understand the culture that he so callously tries to destroy. This verdict outrages Zoc and he is even more upset when his own girlfriend, Hova (Julia Roberts), volunteers to show Lucas the ins and outs of the ant world. After some early missteps, not to mention Zoc’s continual mistrust of the new arrival, Lucas does begin to see his former enemy through new eyes while fitting in with them and winds up leading the defense of the colony when it is attacked by a creepy exterminator (Paul Giamatti–apparently it has been decreed that every actor in “Sideways” has to play a creepy exterminator in an animated film this summer) hell-bent on wiping them all out in the most environmentally-unfriendly manner possible.

“The Ant Bully” was written and directed by John Davis, whose previous animated feature was the slyly amusing “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” and this film shares a lot of the same qualities of that earlier work. There is a bright and stylized look to both the proceedings and the characters that is always fun to look at throughout–notice how the ant voiced by B-movie legend Bruce Campbell has a chin almost as pronounced as the man who speaks for him. In addition, the film smartly manages to be consistently funny without relying entirely on poop jokes (although there are plenty of those to satisfy the little ones) and pop-culture references to get laughs and consistently exciting without relying solely on quick-cut action sequences. (Viewers of a certain age will probably notice the influence of the legendary Ray Harryhausen at certain points.) And while I have gotten tired of star-choked voice casts in animated films, I have to admit that the choices made here are pretty sound ones indeed (no pun intended)–Roberts is appropriately sweet and charming as the ant who wants to befriend Lucas, Giamatti is appropriately slimy as the exterminator, Campbell is appropriately goofy as the colony blowhard and Cage turns in some of the funniest, freakiest work that he has done in a while as the slightly mad Zoc. (I love the moment when he yells “Curse you and your children!” to a rock.) Of course, all bow to the majesty that is Ricardo Montalban–I can’t say with any clarity whether it has been Montalban’s lifelong dream to one day play the elder statesman of an ant colony in an animated film but he tackles it with such zest and zeal that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

What did surprise me was the message of unity and tolerance that is effectively woven throughout the film. Without laying it on too thickly, “The Ant Bully” quietly and effectively illustrates to younger viewers the advantages of working together for the collective good instead of only looking out for oneself. At the same time, it also shows them that if they take the time to actually study and get to know those that they have been trained to look at solely as an enemy fit only for destruction, they might find themselves less willing to continue the cycle of carnage. Admittedly, these are not exactly radical notions but considering the particular period of time in which this film is coming out, it is bit surprising and refreshing to see an animated film with concerns greater than whether a egotistical race car will learn to slow down and smell the octane.

While it doesn’t exactly reinvent the animation genre or achieve the same heights as the best Pixar films or even the current “Monster House,” “The Ant Bully” is the kind of family-oriented film that can be appreciated by viewers of all ages. Kids will be entranced by the bright colors and the exciting action. Adults will be amused by some of the sly humor and the vocal contributions of the cast. And if they both aren’t careful, they might wind up learning a thing or two as well–and not just the fact that an ant crossing its heart is going to be aiming a little lower than one might expect.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14886&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/28/06 14:03:20
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User Comments

11/29/09 Rachel Has a good message. Good movie for children. 4 stars
1/13/09 Guy cool moviee 4 stars
8/15/08 Shaun Wallner This was a funny movie. 5 stars
4/25/07 Tiffany Losco cute movie, great for familys 5 stars
4/23/07 Abs Nice movie. Worth watching. 5 stars
3/21/07 man stupid 1 stars
12/29/06 Kimberly The kid is to mean and the story line generic. I really didn't like it 3 stars
10/25/06 Mike Pretty sweet movie. I loved the frogs 5 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Generic story and style, impressive animation. Could easily go w/o snot and spit gags. 3 stars
8/04/06 Matthew Bradley Great Fun Family Flick 4 stars
7/29/06 Pokejedservo A rather bit of a pleasant surprise if I do say so myself. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-Jul-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 28-Nov-2006

UK
  04-Aug-2006

Australia
  28-Sep-2006


Directed by
  John A. Davis

Written by
  John A. Davis

Cast
  Nicolas Cage
  Bruce Campbell
  Paul Giamatti
  Julia Roberts
  Meryl Streep
  Lily Tomlin



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