The Ant Bully is a 2006 Computer animated adventure comedy movie written and directed by John Alexander Davis, best known for his work on the Jimmy Neutron T.V series. It stars an ensemble cast of Zach Tyler Eisen, Julia Roberts, Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, Regina King and Paul Giamatti. The plot is based on a 90’s children’s book and follows the quest of a young boy in trying to redeem himself from his atrocities against an ant colony after being shrunk to the size of an ant.
Acting and Character performances.
Many actors in Hollywood often tend to be multi-faceted in terms of the movie genres they involve themselves in majorly because they not only want to diversify their revenue streams but also they want to avoid what is widely known as type-casting. On the other side of the coin, there are some actors who are perfectly comfortable with being type-cast, are good at playing characters in specific genres and audiences love them for that. Zach Tyler Eisen is a shining example of the latter if his voice acting work on the Avatar; Last Airbender, this particular flick as well as other animated films and T.V shows is anything to go by.
He exceptionally plays Lucas Nickle on here; a predominantly distraught young boy who is often bullied by a bunch of his peers and has a bad attitude not only towards life but also his family members, especially his mother. To counter this, he prefers to channel his hatred towards a defenseless colony of ants who dread his presence and his ruthless actions so much so they call him ‘Peanut the Destroyer’. I can indeed say that I liked a lot of things about this character because I connected with his journey. In life, we humans can sometimes look down upon others and treat them badly nonetheless, when we are faced with a situation where we have to be on their level, that’s when we know how it feels to be ridiculed and treated like a trash. Eventually, we learn to be become better people, at least those who desire to. The latter is basically what Lucas goes through after being shrunk down and I was drawn to that.
Nicholas Cage as Zoc, the wizard ant was equally awesome. For a better part of the film, he sees himself as a messianic figure to the ant colony. He feels an immense obligation to rid the colony from Lucas’s dreadful actions and he eventually does it through a specially concocted portion that shrinks the human to the size of an ant. However, when things do not go his way after presenting Lucas for trial, he is aggravated and tries everything in his power to oust him out of the colony as he was learning the ways of the ants. With the passage of time though, Zac opens up to Lucas, learns to understand his character and helps him in his journey; one that culminates to the two working together in a team tasked with stopping the impending danger posed by the Exterminator. Much like Lucas, I liked the transition of Zoc throughout the film; it felt so real and I believe Cage, through his acting, brought the best out of the character’s pros and cons.
Of course it would be wrong of me to leave out Julia Robert’s character, wouldn’t it? Her role as the ant nurse in Hova, for me, felt a bit fictitious when I compare her mannerisms to a real world scenario but at the same time, it went along way to prove that one should not always judge a book by its cover and should always endeavour to bring the best out of people in life. Despite what a majority of the ants in the colony felt about having Lucas living amongst them, she sees through the wrongs that Lucas committed and agrees to mentor him and show him how best he can change his ways. In my opinion, I think it is always important to have a voice of reason in any conflict and Hova was great at this all through.
The Plot, Merits and Demerits.
For the longest time, I have always believed that film-makers or producers are at their best on set, or in this case, in studio when they are adapting stories that they have drawn from their own past experiences or those of others. The recent success of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma at the Oscars’ is a good example of this and has gone on to solidify my belief even further.
Apparently Tom Hanks, the producer of this film in review, conceived its idea from reading the book which the film is based on with his child and eventually brought on a seasoned animated film director in John Davis to bring it to life. It is a film that went on to make almost twice its budget at the Box Office and even inspired a video game that was adapted for all major gaming consoles at the time.
The Ant Bully story is one that resonated well with me when I saw it about a year or two after its release and it still had the same effect on me having watched it just recently. In many ways, it is a film that was tailor made for a juvenile audience between the ages of around 7 to 19 who are either bullies in real life or are being bullied in real life; there are important lessons for both sides to learn from this film’s narrative.
I extensively loved how the film handled the narrative without really forcing you to take in the message on bullying; there are a lot of fun aspects to the story that are employed in order to achieve this as you would expect. Most of these fun aspects are basically drawn from what an average person knows about a typical bug colony versus how things ideally work in the mini societies, at least from the perspective of storytelling.
The elements of the movie’s structure i.e. the editing, pacing, themes and tone were considerably above average nevertheless, there are some aspects that I wasn’t pleased by. This movie tends to be somewhat campy in a number of instances during its run-time; it exploits the fantasy animated film genre a bit too much through exaggeration i.e. the ants having an engraving of their history or even the ants riding on wasps yet alone using harnesses to prevent them from falling off during flight.
Additionally, Tiffany Nickle, Lucas’s older sister, is a character that I feel should have been fleshed out even more; the runtime could have been extended to accommodate a small arc for her. This is because in light of the outstanding themes of redemption, forgiveness and transformation explored here, she was left out of the picture and yet she had almost identical traits to Lucas.
Admittedly, I didn’t have as much fun watching The Ant Bully as an adult in his early twenties as I did when I was 12 years old or so, give or take. Additionally, it’s by far not in my top 10 animated movies of all time, I don’t think it deserves to be there however, it was still a good watch. Expect more reviews for animated films all through the month as I promised, the next one being 2006’s Monster House as was suggested by a fan of this platform in my earlier post. Cheers.