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Simon J. Smith
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In an anthill with millions of inhabitants, Z 4195 is a worker ant. Feeling insignificant in a conformity system, he accidentally meets beautiful Princess Bala, who has a similar problem on the other end of the social scale. In order to meet her again, Z switches sides with his soldier friend Weaver - only to become a hero in the course of events. By this he unwillingly crosses the sinister plans of ambitious General Mandible (Bala's fiancé, by the way), who wants to divide the ant society into a superior, strong race (soldiers) and an inferior, to-be-eliminated race (the workers). But Z and Bala, both unaware of the dangerous situation, try to leave the oppressive system by heading for Insectopia, a place where food paves the streets. Written by
Julian Reischl <email@example.com>
The trouble with making a children's film has always been to keep the kids happy but avoid making Mum and Dad fall asleep. Disney have always stuck to a solid "one cute song for every acidic aside" ratio which meant that the over-15's got Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy doing a stripped down routine whilst the 10 year olds got pretty pictures, cute animals and plenty of slapstick. This is what has made the House of Mouse the dominant toon makers but their mastery is under attack from Dreamworks SKG. While Walt & Co. delivered Mulan, Mr. Spielberg gave us Prince of Egypt and though Disney won, narrowly, the next round isn't going to be so easy.
Antz is brilliant. Don't let anybody tell you differently. We've got stunning visuals, great jokes, some brilliant scenes and some very likeable characters. What we have is a very smart film. Maybe too smart. The jokes are funny if you're old enough to get them. The sight of a neurotic ant lying on a therapist's leaf complaining about his anxious childhood is hilarious. Especially when the biggest neurotic in the world, Woody Allen, is delivering the lines. His timing, throughout the entire film, is exquisite and the script takes advantage of this at every opportunity i.e.:
Mandible: I like an ant that laughs in the face of death.
Z: Actually I stand behind Death and make belittling comments at its back.
It reads like one of Woody's early, funny films (sorry, but I couldn't resist it) and the rest of the cast are good too but that's because the script takes advantage of their history. Weaver acts like Stallone, Cutter acts like Walken and Barbatus acts like Glover. Anybody that's seen one of their films instantly recognises the voice behind the ant because of how they speak and act. They also bypass the sing-along route and insert a grisly battle sequence similar to Starship Troopers. The adults in the audience will love it. Children may be a little underwhelmed.
How many kids have seen an Allen, Stallone or Walken film? Not many I expect. How many kids have seen Troopers or Metropolis, (which is a big inspiration for the visuals)? Very few. There are a lot of jokes they just won't get. They may enjoy the pretty pictures but there's a distinct lack of cuddly animals, obvious slapstick or happy tunes. Boredom may set in and there may be a few cries during the battle sequence so be ready. Another downside is a slightly weak villain. Hackman does well with what he has but it's not much and truly cool bad guys like James Woods' Hades run circles round him.
Despite that Antz is a blast. As funny and enjoyable for adults as a child-orientated flick could be. It's not the best toon but it's a definite step forward. Maybe Disney have finally met their match.
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