|The Ant Bully (2006)
Starring: voices of Zach Tyler, Nicolas Cage, Paul Giamatti, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Alan Cumming, Bruce Campbell
Director: John A. Davis
If you don’t take it too seriously, there’s a lot more to like than not to like in “The Ant Bully,” the latest animated children’s film to clog theaters this summer. In fact, if you can get past the dull animation and the relatively weak storyline, you might just walk out of the air conditioned theater and into the blazing heat having had a pretty good time.
Based on a children’s book by John Nickle, “The Ant Bully” centers on Lucas, a boy hounded by the other kids in the neighborhood who takes out his frustration by flooding the ant hill on his front lawn. In retaliation, the ants, through an ambiguous magical spell, shrink Lucas to their size and he is sentenced to live and work with the ants to understand their way of life. It is the colony’s benevolent queen who decides this course of action rather than simply killing Lucas.
From there the film slips into familiar territory with the obligatory scenes you’d get from a foreign land created by a smaller perspective. If you’ve seen “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” then you’ve seen many of these scenes already. The filmmakers are smart enough to keep these moments short, however, and they are at least done well.
As mentioned the animation in this film is a bit bland, and almost exactly copied from the 1998 DreamWorks picture “Antz,” which I’m sure DreamWorks’ lawyers will no doubt bring to Warner Brothers’ attention if they haven’t already. What works for “The Ant Bully” is its talented voice cast and some well placed humor. The highlight is Paul Giamatti who plays a sleazy exterminator threatening to wipe out the ant colony. Unfortunately his scenes are only in the very beginning and end of the film, but the promise of his return keeps you going until the end and he doesn’t disappoint.
Ultimately there isn’t much for adults in “The Ant Bully.” That is, if you’re into the crude sexual innuendo and toilet humor gags in films like “Shrek.” What you will find is a solid morality tale that will keep children entertained and at the same time teach them the virtues of teamwork and sticking up for the little guy. And if you can find the child within yourself, you might just have fun and learn a little something.
There's not a whole lot of extras to mine through on this single-disc release of "The Ant Bully" other than a few deleted scenes (mostly unfinished), seven animated shorts promoting the film, and a 16-minute making-of featurette ("It Takes a Colony") ranging from story conception to voice recording. Then again, what more are we to expect from a kid's flick that didn't perform well at the box office?