Revenge of the Ants!

 

Ant Bully, The (2006) Review 5
Director:John A. Davis,
Starring:Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Zach Tyler, Regina King, and Bruce Campbell
Length:88 minutes
Rated:PG

 

 

John Nickle is an illustrator living in New York, and like most of the more successful practitioners of the art, has delved into the world of children’s books. His big success was a tale of double revenge concerning a kid who gets the crap beat out of him and takes out his frustration on the ants innocently destroying his parent’s lawn.

Tom Hanks saw the book when his son brought it home one day, and he called Nickle’s agent and optioned the book. His Playtone production company was already working on an animated film, and with that experience, Hanks called DNA productions, they of “Jimmy Neutron” and four years later we’ve got one heck of a good film.

The reason it’s so good is that writer/director knew what to keep and what to change, and if you consider that the original was a 32 page picture book with very little text, you have a lot of space to fill up. Writer/Director John A. Davis has done this by paying tribute to the two other films that came out during the turn of the millennium, as well as adding a good deal of politics as well.

Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler Eisen) is a bomb waiting to explode. He’s the new kid in town, and Steve (Myles Jeffrey), the local bully, loves nothing better than to give him a wedgie. He really doesn’t have any friends, his parents Doreen (Cheri Oteri) and Fred (Larry Miller) are almost as clueless as other cartoon parents. Mom notices there’s possibly something wrong, and his big sister, Tiffany (Allison Mack) is his big sister after all, and is annoyed by everything he does, as is natural.

So he stomps the local insect population with the utmost fury.

Mom and Dad are taking a short kid-free vacation for their anniversary, leaving them with their ditzy grandma (Lily Tomlin), who is a firm believer in space aliens and is sure that they’re about to abduct someone close to her.

Meanwhile in a very different universe that’s extremely close by…

The great Wizard Zoc (Nicolas Cage) is working on a magic potion to defeat “the great destroyer” who is raining death and destruction on the colony of ants, which he so proudly serves. His girlfriend Hova (Julia Roberts) is by his side, and although the Prime Minister of the colony (Ricardo Montalban) has his doubts, the concoction is actually created. This leads to a group of commandos invading the house and appling the potion, which, surprisingly, works, and our hero is taken prisoner. And despite the Geneva conventions, the Queen (Meryl Streep) sentences him to a period of servitude. He is, so to speak, become an ant.

Hava becomes his mentor, despite the fury of Zoc, and is put under the care of a teacher ant named Kreela (Regina King). Now, Kreela’s being sexually harassed (in a nice way, of course) by a scout named Fugax (Bruce Campbell), and they have a whole bunch of educational and philosophical adventures.

This is where the book ends, but since this is a movie, we have to have a climactic battle where the two heroes reconcile and the day is saved. Thus, we need an über-villain and we get one in an unscrupulous exterminator named Stan Beals (Paul Giamatti), who is evil as they come. All the insects in the area are in danger…

The main ant characters, are actually rather deep for a film with a young demographic. The relationship between Lucus and Zoc is clearly a rocky one, and the conflict is rather intense, and so is the one between Zoc and Hava. Cage gives a really nuanced performance, one of his better ones in fact, and young Mr. Eisen gives as good as he gets. The time goes by like nothing.

Since it’s hot out, its worth a matinee, so take the kiddies.