WEEKEND.FILM

One 'Bully' you wouldn't mind knowing

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Aug. 3, 2006 

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With "The Ant Bully," "Monster House" and "Barnyard" all in theaters, how's an 8-year-old supposed to choose what movie to beg their parents into submission to take them to see. Well, uh, if you were an 8-year-old, "The Ant Bully" would be a decent choice.

Sick of being picked on by the neighborhood bully, nerdy Lucas takes his anger out on the helpless ant colony in his lawn. Fed up with the destruction to his society that Lucas causes, Zoc (Nicolas Cage,) the wizard ant (yes, a wizard ant, sounds dumb, but the plot needs to start somehow) creates a potion that shrinks Lucas to ant size. Put on trial for his crimes, the Ant Queen (an underused Meryl Streep, how do you underuse Meryl?!?) orders Lucas to work amongst the ants to learn and appreciate their ways.

Going into the film I tried very hard to keep an open mind and not constantly compare it to "A Bug's Life" and "Antz," but it was near impossible not to. Yes, "The Ant Bully" does a good job of animating an ant colony and depicting how the human world looks to such small creatures, but it felt much more fresh and original back in 1998 when the other bug movies were released. Heck, even before that with 1989's "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids."

As Zoc, Cage is, well, interesting to say the least. In the beginning his vocals are all over the place and quite painful to listen to. However as the film progresses he gets a hold of things and gives the best performance in the film, until suddenly he begins awkwardly pausing mid-sentence, sounding like the "Family Guy" impersonation of William Shatner. Supporting Cage is a slew of Hollywood A-listers including Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, Regina King, Bruce Campbell and the neglected Lily Tomlin and Cheri O'Teri as Lucas' mom and grandma. All do a fine job, but why do studios insist on hiring pricey, big names for cartoons rather than finding actors best suited for the role? The actors might get parents to buy tickets easier, but is anybody really viewing this as Julia's return since the twins?

The movie is heavy on morals, which will get tedious for older audiences. But it's probably a good thing kids learn the ants' values of not being selfish and putting society's needs in front of your own. That way they don't grow up to be rude assholes and can function as good citizens in society. But come to think of it, this sounds more like a communist civilization. Oh well, good thing this didn't come out in the 50s or McCarthy would've been all over director John Davis' ass.

 

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