The season’s second computer-animated ant tale (following Antz) has finally hit the theaters. It lacks some of the earlier film’s sophisticated humor, but more than makes up for it with its rich animation and endearing characters.
The ant colony on Ant Island has problems. Every year, the ants must toil to collect enough food to appease a gang of bad grasshoppers, led by the menacing Hopper (Kevin Spacey), in addition to enough food to support the colony. One inventive ant, Flik (Dave Foley), has a creative food-gathering idea…which unfortunately backfires, leaving the colony to face some rather angry grasshoppers.
Flik is sent away to find some help: warrior bugs the colony can hire to fight off the grasshoppers. Unfortunately for the colony, the error-prone Flik brings back a band of misfit circus bugs (who are under the impression they’ve been hired to put on a show).
Among the helpers are a trio of clowns: the a male ladybug Francis (Denis Leary), walking stick Slim (David Hyde Pierce), and corpulent German caterpillar Heimlich (Joe Ranft). There are a pair of Hungarian pillbug acrobats, Tuck and Roll (Michael McShane), the quick-spinning black widow Rosie (Bonnie Hunt), and her tame beetle Dim (Brad Garrett). Rounding out the troupe are the praying mantis magician Manny (Jonathan Harris), and his moth sidekick Gypsy (Madeline Kahn).
The animation quality of A Bug’s Life is simply spectacular. The animators at Pixar have broken new ground with the realism of the surroundings. The plants, twigs, and surrounding vegitation is impressively realistic. The bugs aren’t as impressive (most look like they’re made of cloth or vinyl), but are still expressively animated.
But, as good as the animation is, it’s the characters here that stand out once again. As with Pixar’s earlier film, Toy Story, the vocal talent have been perfectly matched with the characters they play. Unlike Antz, whose characters were overshadowed by the big name voice actors, the characters in A Bug’s Life come first.
The humor of A Bug’s Life is both subtle and simple. The in-jokes that peppered Antz aren’t to be found here…instead we’re assaulted with the humor present in a minutiae of details. There are lots of little things, such as the variety of bugs and buildings in the bug “city”, which require multiple viewings to catch them all. Not much of the humor here will sail over the heads of children…but adults will still find plenty to grin about.
A Bug’s Life may not be as groundbreaking as Toy Story, but it is nearly as entertaining. There’s a little something for everyone here, and the film is a blast to watch.