Antz (1998) / Animation-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG for mild language and some scenes of violence
Running Time: 83 min.

Cast (voices): Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez, Christopher Walken, Danny Glover, Anne Bancroft, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, John Mahoney, Paul Mazursky, Grant Shaud
Director: Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson
Screenplay: Todd Alcott, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Review published December 18, 2004

Dreamworks first big foray into the 3D animation genre proved to be successful with Antz, a beautifully rendered adventure that sparkles with comic dialogue and fantastic special effects.  It came out the same year as another big bug movie, Pixar's a bug's life, but this one was out the gate first, and set quite a high standard on its own.  This one is for an older crowd, as some of the jokes are sophisticated (relatively), and there's a dash of PG-rated language, as well as a few deaths of characters throughout.  However, for kids that are inured to regular television fare, they'll probably watch and enjoy this as much as the adults do. 

Woody Allen (Everyone Says I Love You, Mighty Aphrodite) gets to voice the main character, Z, a worker ant who questions his role in life being one of millions of ants who do nothing but dig all day.  He seeks help from a shrink, and frequently questions authority, and one day while in a bar, he meets and falls for the next queen ant, Princess Bala (Sharon Stone, Sphere).  He does whatever he can to get close to her an impress her, including swapping places with Weaver (Sylvester Stallone, Cop Land), one of the macho soldier ants, although he ends up going to war with the vicious termites that day.  Z becomes a hero because he survives the battle, and soon the colony begins to feel more liberated and free.  Sensing danger to the unity of the colony, General Mandible (Gene Hackman, Crimson Tide), the leader of the army and the lucky ant engaged to Princess Bala, decides he can't sit idly by and let the spirit of independence ruin what they've worked so hard for.

Smart and funny, Antz is worth every penny of the price of admission for the sheer ingenuity involved, not only for the special effects, but for the zany conceptual story as well.  Pop references abound, although not to the extent that would come in a later Dreamworks production, Shrek, and the choice of the voice actors also works wonderfully all around.  Z is neurotic, and when it comes to that affliction, there is perhaps no better embodiment than Woody Allen, the king of the comedy of self-doubt.  Although it's easy to overlook because of the stunning visuals, Antz also features a gorgeous score by Harry Gregson-Williams (The Rock, Chicken Run) and John Powell (Face/Off, The Bourne Identity), which is perfectly in tune with all of the action and comedy within.

Antz isn't quite in the same league as a bug's life in terms of appeal or even craftsmanship, but it isn't very far off.  It set the standard for Dreamworks to make animated features for slightly older audiences, but it still holds a mass appeal for its story elements and quality in the production.  The visuals are so good, it's easy to forget you're watching animation, allowing us to enjoy the film for its humor and satisfying theme of nonconformity.  Recommended for everyone. 

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo