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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Antz

Starring: Woody Allen, Sharon Stone
Director: Eric Farnell
Rated: PG
RunTime: 83 Minutes
Release Date: October 1998
Genres: Animation, Kids, Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review by MrBrown
3½ stars out of 4

It's still another two months before DreamWorks launches its assault on the current state of feature animation with the much-ballyhooed (and equally as anticipated) _The_Prince_of_Egypt_, but in the meantime, the crew at SKG has found another way to hit Disney where it hurts--in the field of computer animation. With the witty and wise _Antz_, DreamWorks and PDI has given the Mouse and Pixar's upcoming _A_Bug's_Life_ a tough act to follow.

The "z" in _Antz_ stands for Z (voice of Woody Allen), a lowly worker ant who for once wants to do something for his individual needs rather than those of the colony. He gets a taste of something different when Princess Bala (Sharon Stone), reluctantly betrothed to megalomaniacal General Mandible (Gene Hackman) and bored with her sheltered life in general, sneaks out and joins the commoners for one night, meeting Z at a bar (where "aphid beers" are served). Bala's ruse is soon discovered, but not before Z has fallen head over heels in love. Determined to break from his class and win Bala's love in return, Z comes up with a scheme that, if anything, will win Bala's attention. Alas, he gets a lot more than he bargained for.

Like Disney's trailblazing _Toy_Story_, _Antz_ has a smart script that will keep adults equally as entertained, if not more, as the young 'uns. The screenplay by Todd Alcott, Chris Weitz, and Paul Weitz is a most unlikely--and often hilarious--Communist allegory, with the oppressed workers encouraged to "work for the good of the colony" and even forced to dance the same way at the same time each day; Z's scheme inspires the masses to revolt. But beyond the social satire, a lot of the script's creativity lies in its placing the audience in the ants' shoes, seeing familiar things from the insects' eyes. For example, simple trash can brimming with litter is "Insectopia," a paradise of food and other delights for all insects; and a single water droplet can spell a horrible death by drowning.

The material really comes to life in the hands of the actors and the animators at PDI. The character of Z would be unthinkable without the voice of Allen; freed from his physical form, his tired neurotic New Yorker schtick is given a freshness. The rest of the actors are also well-cast: Sylvester Stallone is perfect fit for Z's musclehead soldier friend, Weaver; Stone lends Princess Bala sexiness and spunk, as does Jennifer Lopez to Z's worker friend Azteca; Hackman makes Mandible a hissable villain; and Christopher Walken is an ideal foil as his right-hand ant, Colonel Cutter. Though the actors give the ants most of personality, the animators fill in the blanks, coming up with a look for the ants that is at once humanized (their faces are wonderfully expressive) yet distinctly insect-like. The artwork is consistently first rate, if a bit limited in the big picture; most of the action takes place in the ant colony, which means repeated use the same dingy dirt tunnel backgrounds. However, some visually dazzling scenes, such as a rather harrowing combat sequence involving some menacing termites, more than compensate.

In recent months, many studios have tried to take a bite out of Disney's stranglehold on the feature animation market--and failed. If the delightful _Antz_ is any indication of what is in the pipeline of DreamWorks' traditional animation division, it may not be such a small world after all.

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