1:40 PM, 7th March, 1999
This is first animated movie put out by Dreamworks SKG, and not without its share of controversy. Steve Jobs (Apple co-founder and Pixar head) has suggested that Jeffrey Katzenberg (the K in SKG) flogged the idea from when Jobs first pitched the idea of a movie about computer-generated insects to Disney, where Katzenberg was at the time. That movie of course went on to become A Bug's Life. It's all very complicated, but the important thing is this; Antz is not a bad movie, but it's not as creative as the competition.
The story is a simple one of Z (Allen), one ant amongst millions, who develops a desire to be an individual and break free of the ordered life that all the other ants accept. The catalyst is his desire for Princess Bala (Stone), whom he encounters in a bar. To see her again swaps places with a soldier ant, accidentally becomes a hero, kidnaps the princess, and has to save the colony from the machinations of General Mandible (Hackman).
Fairly standard stuff, and perhaps that's why people seemed to think this was a more "adult" movie than the freewheeling A Bug's Life. The animation is indeed very good (though not as detailed as the latter), and some of the scenes are brilliant in particular, the battle with the termites, and at Insectopia. Dialogue is often sharp and funny, with throwaway one-liners aplenty. The only downside is that a large part of animation's attractions is the sheer inventiveness of the genre that goes with the elimination of physical restrictions. Unfortunately, Antz loses some of its imaginative steam as it goes on. I think the word we're looking for here is "mainstream".
3:00 PM, 7th March, 1999
An evil corporate empire stages a hostile take-over of a classic toy company, and insists on the latest, flashiest and most technically spectacular war toys that can be built. The final result is
The Commando Elite' and The Gorgonites'; two groups of sentient, highly functional action figures with diametrically opposed philosophical stances. Alan (Gregory Smith), the son of a toy store owner, purchases some of these new action figures only to discover their ability to move, talk, play and kill. The commando figures demolish the store in their attempts to destroy the Gorgonites. Alan and his new love Christy (Kirsten Dunst) discover the Gorgonites and agree to help them. Voila, big battle, smart chips & violent programming versus smart humans, smart chips & pacific programming.
The majority of the actors put in solid, amusing performances that fit the script and the desired style of the film. There are no flaws there, which is good albeit relatively unimportant because the real stars of the film are the toys and the accompanying animation. Other than Jones (Chip Hazard) and Frank Langella (Archer), the commandos are voiced by the remaining members of the original Dirty Dozen while the Gorgonites are voiced by the members of Spinal Tap.
This film, although highly enjoyable, occasionally amusing and with a rousing soundtrack, fails on one level. It claims to be making a point regarding the disturbing emphasis on violence and war in the media, yet contradicts that message by itself selling violence, especially through the action figures that, needless to say, came out with the film. Maybe it was meant to be cleverly satirical, but that level of subtlety just did not work.