The ants bustling through the colony refer to Lucas (Zach Tyler
) as "The Destroyer." The nickname is well-deserved. Because he is picked on by the neighborhood bully, the pint-sized Lucas vents his frustrations on someone (or something) quite below his own stature – the insects that crawl beneath his feet.
Well, the ants have had enough of Lucas' sweeping kicks to their hill. They've grown tired of his garden hose flooding every chamber of their elaborate home. And for once, they have a plan. Zoc (Nicolas Cage
), the colony's kooky chemist, has perfected a potion that will shrink Lucas down to bug level – teaching him, in the process, why it's best to pick on someone your own size. Article continues below
If one were to compile a list of difficult tasks, writing an original screenplay about ants would probably place just ahead of moving a rubber tree plant. Similar feature films – from A Bug's Life to Antz – have used animation to better explore an insect's perspective, so anyone paying to see another pest picture has to have high-apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes that the story stays fresh. With The Ant Bully, it doesn't.
That's not to say director John A. Davis
skimps on either production or imagination. This creatively noisy kid flick generates a number of decent visuals pertaining to an ant's view of the larger human world. The details paid to a trip through Lucas' kitchen are amazing. We're given an unprecedented look at the inside of a toad's belly. And Davis honors Hollywood's greatest combat films when he stages a dragonfly assault in the film's first half.
But an army of celebrity voices can’t improve the script's clichéd decisions. Paul Giamatti
voices a supremely immature exterminator. (Coincidentally, Giamatti's Sideways co-star Thomas Haden Church
voiced an exterminator in this summer's animated Over the Hedge
, too. It makes you wonder if that was planned.) Julia Roberts
brings maternal warmth to her role of Lucas' ant caregiver, but Cage is creepy, cold, and overly intense as the kid's inevitable role model. Finally, to round out the A-list cast, listen for Meryl Streep
, who appears briefly to voice the colony's wise queen.
It's not that Bully bugged me. It just never managed to fly.