U.S. Release Date: July 28, 2006
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Producer: Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Scott Mednick (executive), Thomas Tull (executive)
Composer: John Debney
Cast: Julia Roberts (Voice), Nicolas Cage (Voice), Meryl Streep (Voice), Paul Giamatti (Voice)
Running Time: 1 hour and 22 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (some mild rude humor and action)

Altruistic Trash in This Ant Heap
by Scott Holleran

Run fast from the atrociously themed The Ant Bully, a crude, joyless and unfunny piece of altruistic propaganda. Even the animation, with items of varying scale, suffers in this computer-generated trash, which proposes that man, not ant, is small and insignificant.

If that idea—man is bad, ant is good, and the only thing worth exterminating is one's individuality—sounds more like a college professor's political science class or a Hezbollah training video than a kids' movie produced by Tom Hanks, think again.

Little Lucas (Zach Tyler Eisen) is being bullied by a tank of a boy who beats him up and calls him names. When Lucas turns his rage on an ant hill—populated by ants voiced by Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep—he's going to get what he richly deserves. That was the appeal of this computer-animated picture, which looked like it might furnish a fun-filled lesson about the bully who is himself bullied.

Fat chance. Instead, an ant witch doctor (Cage) concocts a potion to shrink Lucas, who falls into a society of ants best described as a faith-based collective that worships a dictator voiced by deep-breathing Streep—and these are supposed to be the good guys. Cage and Streep are the ointment and the kid's the fly, but Julia Roberts is the heap's milk and honey, spinning soft lines to lure Lucas into self-sacrifice.

Besides not being terribly consistent—the ants, which preach pacifism, are extremely violent—Ant Bully spews an obscene theme. As Lucas becomes merely another worker in the colony, eating insect feces, serving others and just following orders, he learns to humble himself. When Streep's queen sentences the child to forced labor—that part of communism they got right—someone cries that it's not human. Head ant-priest Ricardo Montalban responds: "Yes, it is."

This tripe goes on, unrolling bad science fiction with cataclysmic scenes of drowning ants and piling on more subplots than there are critters at a deep woods picnic. The humor is vulgar, usually at someone's expense. Lily Tomlin voices a mentally deficient grandmother who passes gas and believes in alien abductions. An incinerated ladybug is played for yuks.

Finally, Lucas, whose parents have wisely left town, coordinates the big confrontation between a pest control contractor (Paul Giamatti) and the People's Republic of Antdom. Of course, the kid's on the side of the ants, which promptly attack Giamatti in the nuts—though they manage to get some other insect to do him in. Yippee. This stuff is foul.

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