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THE ANT BULLY (article first published : 2006-09-18)

It lacks the wit and freshness of both Antz and A Bug's Life but The Ant Bully is not nearly as bad as a few overseas reviewers have been saying, being an attractively animated and enjoyable romp for the young.

An added bonus with this film by director John A Davis, who gave us the animated Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, is a stellar line-up of voice talent that includes Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Bruce Campbell, Regina King, Paul Giamatti and Ricardo Montalban.

Based on a book by John Nickle, the film spotlights the benefits of friendship, teamwork and diversity while emphasising that the mighty should not trample the weak and that one can maintain one's individuality while pulling together as a team player.

The tale revolves around nerdy 10-year-old Lucas (Zach Tykler), referred to by his parents as "Peanut", who is picked on by neighbourhood bullies, has no pals and gives vent to his anger and frustration by squirting the garden hose down anthills and stomping on the scurrying insects.

An ancient chief ant (Montalban) tut-tuts at the human world for attacking "without reason, without provocation, just because they can". He would love to teach the towering beings a lesson in toleration, so is happy when ant wizard Zoc (Cage) concocts a special potion that, once dripped into Lucas's ear, turns the boy - dubbed by the colony as The Destroyer - bug-size.

As a member of the ant colony, little Lucas then gets to learn how to live life in a peaceful and productive community receiving advice and support from sweet nurse Hova (Roberts) and her pals Kreela (King) and Fugax (Campbell).

As he confronts and conquers hurdles during a series of adventures - including rather amusing encounters with a caterpillar, a hungry frog and jellybeans - so Lucas starts to win friends and influence people. And, perhaps too late, he suddenly realises that a gung-ho exterminator (Giamatti) has been hired to dispose of the anthill in his garden and that unless something is done pronto he and his newfound friends might be pushing up daisies.

Perhaps best appreciated by under-12s, The Ant Bully gets a rating of 6/10. - Billy Suter




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