The Ant Bully (PG)
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Caution: potential spoilers.
This is based on a children's book I've never even heard of. The movie came out in 2006, and I finally got around to watching it in 2012. I've been wanting to see it for quite awhile, mainly because the main character is voiced by Zach Tyler, who played Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender. But really, the whole cast is pretty amazing.
Anyway, so it's about this kid named Lucas Nickle, who is frequently tormented by a bully. And so, Lucas likes to act as a bully toward ants, himself. I should say, we get to see a bit of his family... his parents go away on vacation at the start of the movie, so Lucas is left home with his big sister and their grandmother (who is apparently an alien abduction nut, who's also ridiculously prone to losing her dentures). But basically, none of them are important to the story. The main characters, aside from Lucas, are ants. There's a wizard named Zoc (Nicolas Cage), who creates a magic potion which he uses to shrink Lucas (or "the Destroyer," as they call him), to ant size. Zoc has a girlriend named Hova (Julia Roberts), who would rather talk to humans and try to make peace with them, than try to fight them. So there's a bit of conflict between Zoc and Hova about how to deal with Lucas (though aside from that, the two ants clearly love each other). Meanwhile, the Queen (Meryl Streep) commands that Lucas live among the ants until he learns their ways and becomes like an ant himself, and then he could be restored to his normal size, and set free. (Though she does imply that if he doesn't learn their ways... well, you know.)
Lucas is understandably reluctant at first; though personally I think he should count himself lucky that he's stuck with intelligent, reasonably friendly ants, who most importantly, are CGI creatures (like himself), which are actually kinda cute. I mean, as opposed to real ants. Which are just horrible. In fact, I'm going to take a moment here to make it clear that, while I'm capable of suspending my real-life attitude for the purposes of a movie like this, and be on the side of the ants... in real life I am on the side of the exterminator. Big time. Oh, btw... before he got shrunk, Lucas was tricked into signing a contract with a sleazy exterminator named Stan Beals (Paul Giamatti), to do a job for his family, while his parents are away. Later on, Lucas will of course try to stop the exterminator, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Um... so anyway, there are a couple of other important ants, including one named Kreela (Regina King) who is an instructor of young forager ants; and Fugax (Bruce Campbell), a scout ant who seems to think his profession is more important than that of foragers, but who also clearly has a thing for Kreela. Oh yeah, also Zoc has a little helper, like a firefly I guess, named Spindle (who totally reminded me of Blaze from Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure). Well, I don't really want to say too much more about the plot. It's all very predictable. Of course Lucas learns to appreciate the ants, and becomes friends with them... mainly Hova, who really is very nice. But eventually he even bonds with Zoc. And there will be a pretty epic battle against Beals, but I really don't want to give away any details about how that goes down.
Anyway, there are a lot of cliches in the movie. But there's also lots of humor, even if for the most part I only found it mildly amusing. Some bits were better than others. And there were some sweet elements to the story, and some scary things... actually, some things in the movie were surprisingly dark, or clever, or... I dunno. It wasn't all predictable. I mean the big picture was, but some of the details weren't. So basically I thought it was a good movie, but not good enough that I'd want to see it again. And I suppose I could gripe about some things... such as the fact that they make it sound like ants have a better system than humans, because they're better at working together than we are. But the scene where Lucas and Zoc were talking about that... I wanted to point out that dammit, the ants in this movie have their specializations, and so do humans. They made it sound like... the fact that all the different types of ants are necessary for the success of the whole colony is somehow different from the fact that all the different jobs humans have are necessary for the success of a human community. That really bugged me (pun semi-intended). But... meh. I don't want to gripe too much. Because overall, it was a reasonably fun movie with positive messages, even if we've seen those messages many times before, often delivered better than this. But did I mention how awesome the voice cast was? (There are a bunch of great people whom I haven't even mentioned.)