The Ant Bully

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Zach Tyler as Lucas Nickle (voice)
Nicolas Cage as Zoc (voice)
Julia Roberts as Hova (voice)
Bruce Campbell as Fugax (voice)
Regina King as Kreela (voice)
Lily Tomlin as Mommo (voice)
Paul Giamatti as Stan (voice)
S. Scott Bullock as Glow worm (voice)
Allison Mack as Tiffany Nickle (voice)
Larry Miller as Father (voice)
Ricardo Montalban as Head of Council (voice)
Cheri Oteri as Doreen Nickle (voice)
Rob Paulsen as Black Beetle (voice)
Clive Robertson as Wizard Ant (voice)
Meryl Streep as Queen Ant (voice)
Frank Welker as Spindle the Firefly (voice)

Special Features:
Seven animated shorts

Additional scenes

“It Takes a Colony”: explore the giant filmmaking process from a tiny perspective

Ant habitat TV screensaver

Other Info:
Widescreen
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
French and Spanish Languages
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 89 Minutes

Synopsis:
“The Ant Bully” is based on the children’s book by John Nickle.

Lucas Nickle is a young boy who is picked on by a local bully. Frustrated and helpless, he takes out his aggression on a small ant mound in his front yard. But the ants see him as anything but small and helpless. To them, he is “The Destroyer” and his attacks on them and their home are devastating.

Hoping to save the colony, ant wizard Zoc comes up with a magical potion that shrinks Lucas to the size of the ants. Though the ants want to kill him, the Queen Ant decides to have mercy and teach Lucas their ways in hopes of gaining a new ally.

At first Lucas is reluctant to buy into the ant’s sense of teamwork and community, but he soon gains new friends and respect among them. But what will happen to his new friends when an exterminator comes to wipe out all the bugs in his yard?

“The Ant Bully” is rated PG for some mild rude humor and action.

The Movie:
At first glance, “The Ant Bully” looks like a copy of “Antz” or “A Bug’s Life.” Fortunately, that’s not the case. The production design, animation, and story are all sufficiently different that you quickly forget any comparisons. The ants are more ant-like than those shown in other films. Their world is a little more alien and their look is a little more tribal. And the message of compassion, teamwork, and a sense of community is a little more prevalent and personal for children. Not only that, but the movie is going to seem new to a whole generation of kids that haven’t seen these other ant-based films.

What’s most notable is the film’s sense of humor. There’s a great mix of physical humor, one-liners, eccentric characters, puns, and gross out gags that keep things entertaining for both children and adults. One particularly memorable scene takes place when a frog eats our hero. What would otherwise be a scary sequence ends up being quite funny and gross. Another great sequence features Lucas and his new friends entering his house. It’s amusing to see the human world from a bug’s perspective. There are also some fantastic action scenes including an attack by some wasps and a big aerial battle with the exterminator in the finale.

The voice cast is great. Nicolas Cage stands out in his role as Zoc. Cage is known for playing stressed out characters and he does so perfectly with his voice work. Bruce Campbell is also great as the buffoonish Fugax. He’s actually in the film more than many of the headlinders. (Meryl Steep, despite getting top billing, is barely in the movie.) Lily Tomlin also steals a number of scenes as Mommo, Lucas’ wacky grandmother. Despite the top talent they have voicing some of the characters, a few established voice actors find moments to shine, too. Listen for Rob Paulsen (“Pinky,” “Animaniacs”) as Black Beetle and Frank Welker (“Scooby-Doo,” “Transformers”) as Spindle the Firefly and other characters.

I also thought the score by John Debney was quite good. It stands out most in the credits, but it really set the tone well for both the action scenes and quiet moments.

On the down side, “The Ant Bully” relies a little too much on gross out humor here and there. I appreciated a lot of it, but as the jokes continued on they got a bit tiresome. Still, the kids loved it. I also thought Julia Roberts wasn’t used to her full potential. Unlike Nicolas Cage, she doesn’t give her character much personality. Any actress could have played Hova equally well.

I guess my only other gripe is that this movie was quite predictable. It follows a blatantly obvious path and there are few, if any, surprises.

The Extras:
This DVD is a little light on the bonus features. Here’s what you’ll find:

Seven animated shorts – This is 8 minutes of short stories featuring the “Ant Bully” characters. One shows ants reacting to Lucas burning them with a magnifying glass. Another shows the characters from the frog’s stomach all stuck on a spider’s web together. Yet another one is a parody public service announcement pleading for help for ants stuck in Lucas’ ant farm. They’re all pretty funny and well worth checking out.

Additional scenes – There are 11 minutes of additional scenes in various stages of animation. One shows more of the birth of the ants and their role selection process. Others show more of the parents, the exterminator, and other characters. Another scene shows Lucas falling in the family’s aquarium. In short, there’s plenty here to keep fans of the film entertained.

“It Takes a Colony” – This is your standard ‘making of’ video. It’s 16 minutes long and is hosted by writer / director John A. Davis. They show a number of the secondary characters recording their dialogue, the storyboarding process, and other such stuff.

Ant habitat TV screensaver – This exactly what it sounds like. It features an ant farm on the screen and the ants do various antics (no pun intended).

You’ll also find an Easter Egg entitles “Animators Having Fun.” It’s an animatic version of the characters doings dances, moves from “The Matrix,” and more.

The Bottom Line:
I showed this to my 4-year-old son and he was completely mesmerized by it. The story was fast-paced and funny, so we were both entertained. It’s a fun movie for the whole family.

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