Director: Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson
Writer: Todd Alcott, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Time: 87 min.
Genre: Adventure / Animation / Comedy / Fantasy
Oh, don’t be fooled by the kiddy-flick look of this film: this ain’t no fluff! I almost avoided seeing this movie because I thought it was dumbass family fare, but man was I wrong! This is actually one of the most clever and fun films I’ve seen in 98. Like George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, this is an allegory for our society. Of course, you can just sink into this eye-popping adventure, but you gotta interpret it to the 2nd degree. Woody Allen stars as Z, a self-conscious ant who doesn’t feel at his place as “the middle child in a family of 5 million”. He lives in a world where you’re assigned a place when you’re born, and you don’t have a choice. You’re a worker or you’re a soldier, like it or not. Z hates to dig dirt, and when he falls in love with the princess, he decides to think for himself and follow his heart. He switches places with a soldier buddy in hope of grabbing the attention of the princess, but to his great surprise this is the day on which the troops are sent on a suicide mission against the termites. Luckily, Z survives and even becomes a war hero, and subsequent twists will put him in a wild adventure outside the underground colony.
This is just the premise of this smart, witty film about the value of individual thought. By transposing the action in a world of ants, the filmmakers give a whole new echo to every event. It’s very amusing to see these little ants talking about war, work unions and relationships. And the visuals! Wowie mowie! It’s amazing what they can do with computers nowadays. An entire world of small wonders is created, up to the littlest detail. You completely forget you’re watching an animation feature. And those ants are cool! They have incredibly smooth gestures and facial expressions, and it’s fun to see how the animators base the characters on the people who voice them. Like, Z has Woody Allen’s face, but also his typical movie persona. And believe me, Allen hasn’t been that refreshing on screen in a long time! As an ant, his neurotic over-thinking is more surprising, hence funnier. There’s also the classy Anne Bancroft as the Queen; Sharon Stone, funnier than usual as the princess; Sly Stallone as a big dumb macho army guy; Danny Glover as Z’s war buddy; Jennifer Lopez as a sexy worker-ant; Gene Hackman as a cold-hearted army general and Christopher Walken as his colonel.
It seems that most critics understood that ANTZ ain’t just a technically achieved family film. I hope people will also go past the weirdness of a film starring ants and enjoy this wonderful movie. Don’t stop at the appearances: this is a subversive, highly enertaining satire, and it’s one of these rare films that can claim to be unique.