Characteristic of 1995's 'Toy Story', 'Antz', in my opinion is just as
good if not better. It has all the classic makings of an animated
formula film which is ideal for somewhat older children, say those above
the age of 8 and isn't really suitable for very young children. What I
enjoyed so much about the film was the abundance of rich detail brought
to every frame of this film which captures the everyday life in an ant
colony with humour, intrigue and an innocuous style of story telling.
Woody Allen is Z, the film's nerdy little protagonist, and the first
time we see Z, he's on a therapist's couch. How appropriate.
Especially when we see Woody in his other films, sometimes playing a
neurotic in therapy as the character he voices here is. Z is a
"worker". At birth, an ant is judged by the colony as either a "worker"
or a "soldier". The queen of the colony, voiced by Anne Bancroft, has a
beautiful (to an ant) daughter, the Princess Bala, voiced by Sharon
Stone. The princess is engaged to the leader of the soldier's colony,
echoed by Gene Hackman as a cleverly created villain, giving 'Antz' the
strength it needs whereas 'Toy Story' lacked a villain you could really
latch onto for exciting leverage.
After finding out that the only way he can score with the Princess, whom
he is very fond of and whom he met one night at the ant nightclub of
sorts, Z changes places with his best friend, yo'ed!!! by Sylvester
Stallone, who is a soldier. The adventure of being a soldier leads Z
into battle where the ants will battle the dreaded termites, a species
much larger and superior in weaponry, both natural and otherwise. This
is the most impressive aspect of the film's entertainment value,
comparable in animated detail to the ballroom dance between Belle and
the beast in 1991's 'Beauty and the Beast' and the famous stampede scene
in 1994's 'The Lion King'. As the lone survivor of the battle, Z and
the Princess leave together and the two of them are pursued by the
entire military branch of the ant colony. Their adventure takes them
outside the colony into the human world where they come across the most
natural place you would expect to find an ant, a picnic location!
'Antz' is from the DreamWorks studio, the company started by Steven
Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. The company has done a
good job diversifying its subject matter since its inception last year
with 'The Peacemaker'. The studio's apparent attempt at both adult and
family entertainment is quickly being met with praise by critics in and
out of the Hollywood circle.
'Antz' is directed by Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson and is written by
Todd Alcot, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz and while this collaboration
seems like a few too many cooks spoiling the brew, the film has a
cohesive structure and at a running time of just 83 minutes, it's ending
is clever, fitting in perfectly with the vision Woody Allen has in a
constant theme that usually runs within his film.
Other celebrity voices in this ingenious mixture of technology include
Christopher Walken, Danny Glover, Jennifer Lopez, Dan Aykroyd and Jane
Curtin and Aykroyd's voice is the one hardest to nail down for
recognition. See if you can catch it.
Copyright © 2000 Walter Frith