Antz - * * *

In what seems to be the most unusual film trend of late, two studios are offering competing computer-animated-bug films. The first one out of the gate is Antz, the first animated film from Dreamworks SKG. Although not up to the high standards of Toy Story, it poses a strong challenge to this Thanksgiving’s A Bug’s Life.

Antz follows the life of a single ant, Z (Woody Allen), who is dissatisfied with colony life. As with many animated heroes, he yearns for something different…he wants to be an individual, instead of part of the collective.

He spots his chance when he meets the beautiful Princess Bala (Sharon Stone), who is “slumming it” with the worker ants to get a taste of life before her impending marriage to the ruthless General Mandible (Gene Hackman). Although their meeting is brief, Z believes they’ve formed a connection, and now has a goal for his dreams.

He enlists the aid of his soldier friend Weaver (Sylvester Stallone) in an effort to meet her again. However, when things don’t go as planned, Z finds himself the target of Mandible’s wrath.

This is only the second fully computer-animated film, but somehow the sense of awe and wonder that was present in Toy Story is missing. The water animation here is very realistic, but overall the animation fails to be impressive.

None of the characters are particularly charming by themselves. It’s the voices that truly bring them to life, and Antz has attracted a first-rate cast for the job. In addition to the voices credited above, the film features the talents of Christopher Walken, Danny Glover, Anne Bancroft, Jennifer Lopez, Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin. The vocal performances are all top-notch, and truly bring a spark of life to the film.

There’s plenty of humor here…but most of it is likely to sail completely over the heads of children. Socio-political commentary is rare in animation, but it seems to fit in well here.

Humorous and enjoyable, Antz is able to overcome its limitations and is a rather good cartoon. Younger children might not understand many of the jokes, and might be frightened by some of the battle scenes…but older kids and adults will have a jolly good time.

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