The Ant Bully (2006)

Genres - Children's/Family, Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Comedy  |   Release Date - Aug 4, 2006 (USA - IMAX 3D)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - Turkey, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The glut of digital animation that hit theaters in 2006 finally took its toll -- on the wrong movie. Despite first-rate visuals, an all-star vocal cast, and a new spin on some familiar territory, The Ant Bully trickled out of the Top Ten within three weekends, leaving Warner Bros. and producer Tom Hanks with a certified flop. Meanwhile, Barnyard's box office continued to prove the earning power of far less inventive films. Antz and A Bug's Life may have gotten to this microscopic world eight years earlier, but it took The Ant Bully to explore the age-old one-sided battle between ants and "human destroyers" -- i.e., cruel children who stomp on anthills. Director John A. Davis and company have developed an imaginative variation on the landscape their predecessors established, one that's surprisingly unburdened by what came before. Plus, they've provided children a positive message regarding perspective that has both a literal interpretation (don't kill other living creatures) and a figurative one (don't pick on the little guy). Although Lucas Nickle adapts unnaturally quickly to his change in circumstances -- nary a freak-out about his shrunken size -- his immersion in the colony and eventual bonding with its members are both handled well. This sets up a series of strong set pieces, including a wasp attack, a mission into Lucas' house to get "sweet rocks" (jelly beans), and a narrow escape from a determined bullfrog. The climactic battle against the exterminator -- voiced by Paul Giamatti in a regrettably brief showpiece of vulgarity -- is a final summary of all the film's clever decisions about size and the possibilities therein. If audiences finally decided they preferred something really "different," it was a poor time to reach that conclusion. Better to give fresh life to old material than approach new material in a derivative way.