Antz vs. A Bug's Life

Dir: Eric Darnell + Lawrence Guterman/John Lasseter + Andrew Stanton
Voice: Woody Allen, Sharon Stone/Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the two contenders for the, er, flyweight title. In the blue corner, coming out fast with a heavily star-laden cast, is Dreamworks spoiler Antz. Trailing in behind, but with a proven track record and the current undisputed champion, it's Pixar, with A Bug's Life Let battle commence!

However, let's be honest: it's not much of a fight. Antz sole advantage was coming out first, even if taken on its own, it's by no means a bad movie: Woody Allen is an appropriate hero, and the likes of Christopher Walken in particular support well, though no-one seems to have to act too hard. However, the story is pedestrian and the computer graphics don't push many boundaries either; when all your protagonists are the same species, you've got to work hard to differentiate them, and the effort is distinctly lacking. You have some great lines, and this seems to be where the endeavour has been applied. There's a distinct political subtext -- however, I couldn't work out whether it was supposed to be communist or libertarian, which is a fairly accurate summary of the film's overall problem.

It's only really when you see A Bug's Life that you realise how limited Antz is, since ABL kicks arse across the board. The plot has had some thought put into it, the characters are varied and have well defined personalities, the animation is jaw-dropping (sometimes too much so, you forget it's all artificial) and the imagination on view is ferocious in volume; if ever a film repays repeated viewings, this one is it. Special credit to Spacey as a truly evil grasshopper, though most of the rest of the celebrity cameos are kept low-key. For example, the hero is voiced by Dave Foley, known perhaps only slightly for Kids in the Hall. At the risk of providing a sound bite for the video sleeve, it's a sheer delight from beginning to end -- and I've got to mention the sequence at the insect circus, which alone contains more ideas than many entire features.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about both movies is the lack of songs. It seems to have been realised that you don't need animated films to grind to a halt every ten minutes for an easy-listening musical number. For that alone, we can be very grateful.


Ants With Angst

Pixar prove themselves clever bug-gers
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