Movie Reviews

The Ant Bully

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 7 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
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)

Summary:
A good voice cast, a great message, and some funny humor sets "The Ant Bully" apart from other recent bug movies. Children and adults will both be entertained.

Story:
"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.

What Worked:
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.

What Didn't Work:
"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 Bottom Line:
I took my 4-year-old son to this 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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