Written by Todd Alcott and Chris Weitz, and directed by Eric Darnell
and Lawrence Guterman, all relative newcomers, Antz may not have
been "touched" by Spielberg in any other capacity than being produced
by Dreamworks, but the lead character's unmistakable resemblance to E.T.
is clearly a nod in his direction.
That lead character is an ant called Z-4195, or "Z" for short.
Played by Woody Allen, Z is just as neurotic and self-searching as any of
Allen's characters, suffering from feelings of insignificance and inadequacy
among his millions of co-workers. His friend Azteca (Jennifer Lopez) cheerfully
whacks away with her pick axe (yes, ants use pick axes) and tries to convince
him to go with the flow.
While Z is pondering his station in life, the queen (Anne Bancroft) is
trying to convince her daughter, Princess Bala (Sharon Stone) to accept
her destiny: to be the next queen and the wife of army leader General Mandible
(Gene Hackman). Yes, apparently, ants get married. Mandible, though he defers
properly to the queen, has secret plans to destroy the masses and move his
elite forces to a different, stronger colony. His aide, Colonel Cutter (Christopher
Walken) is dubious of this idea, but has learned the first ant rule: Never
Out for a little aphid juice at the ant bar, Z meets Weaver (Sylvester
Stallone), an army ant who envies Z for his access to those foxy ant workers.
When he casts an eye on Azteca, Weaver makes a deal with Z to switch places
for a day. Little does Z know that tomorrow is the day of Mandible's planned
assault on a colony of termites. He just wants to be in the grand review
so that he can have another glance at Bala, who danced with him while "slumming
it" in the bar.
Z comes back a battle hero and sole survivor of the termite attack, mainly
because he kept out of the way during the fighting. With his newfound fame,
he launches an attempt to overcome the proletarian mentality that plagues
his huge clan, and to make Bala see him as something more than just another
Antz is a great deal of fun and full of spectacularly colorful
images, with many cameo appearances by other celebs, including Danny Glover
as a good-hearted soldier and Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin as a couple of
snooty bees. The story of Z and his friends works on many levels, with action
scenes to keep the kids interested and lots of hilarious jokes aimed at
Mom and Dad's generation. It is unmistakably an "American" film,
carrying the message (if you want to look that deeply) that liberty and
free choice are necessary rights to be sought and cherished by all. Even
Antz is rated PG, mainly because of some "hells" and "damns," and some cartoon violence. But it is one of those films that deserves to be seen on the big screen. So go now. If you miss it before it goes to video, you'll be sure to suffer a sinking feeling in your thorax. *****
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