A Bug's Life
Rating -

Cast & Crew info:
Dave Foley
Kevin Spacey
Princess Alta
Hayden Pane Hiere
Phyllis Diller
Richard Kind

Produced by Darla K. Anderson and Kevin Reher; Directed by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton; Screenwritten by John Lasseter, Don McEnery, Joe Ranft, Bob Shaw and Andrew Stanton

Animated (US); Rated G; Running Time - 96 Minutes

Official Site

Domestic Release Date
November 25, 1998

Review Uploaded

Written by DAVID KEYES

Is it me or do movies always come in pairs? Two years ago, we had a twin set of volcano movies, and earlier last year we had two films about projectiles in space exploding on the Earthís surface (comets and meteors, to be specific). Now we have two films about insects, and Iím left with some sort of puzzled mind. What is it with these things?

In situations like this, itís usually the first film that gets better recognition. Even more importantly, the first films are better than the second ones 99 times out of 100. By the time the second one rolls around, the structure and formula of the previous one is evident and not as entertaining as it was the first time around. But hereís that one exception: Disneyís new PIXAR project, "A Bugís Life", is a movie more intelligent, more neat, more spectacular, and more fitting of attention than Dreamworksí "Antz" from earlier this fall. It may seem like Disney always triumphs over the other competition, but how could we resist? This is a charming, sprawling, visually elegant triumph of a movie. The minute you see those bugs buzz through those tiny large backyard worlds is the minute you feel like youíve been transported into their dimension. Seeing the movie is like having it happen to you; in fact, the worlds of animation are so stunning and observant that you wish you were part of them.

"A Bugís Life" is a follow-up to "Toy Story" that almost no Disney fan can believe; meaning, itís a film ten times better, ten times more important, ten times more stunning, and ten times more amusing than the other. Itís hard to consider that anything could break new ground off of "Toy Story", but in this case, an exception is made. Itís about (you guessed it) our little insect world and all of their lives as they unfold in a society only seen by their eyes. In the opening shots, we meet a colony of ants gathering food for a harvest down under the soil; beans, leaves, vegetable particles, fruits--the stuff youíd expect ants to be able to carry. They gather this food because they are the worker ants, and instead of delivering it to their high and mighty queen (Phyllis Diller), they are forced to deliver it to a viscous, snarling grasshopper, appropriately named Hopper (Kevin Spacey). The ants are his army, sort of; they come, they pick up the food, and deliver it to their Ďleader.í Itís a tradition; Hopper has owned this colony for quite sometime, apparently. Some of the grasshoppers think that they can be better off without ever having to go back to the ant colony for food, but their leader sees otherwise. He is willing to stick to his job; as long as he is not the one picking up the food and delivering it, what should it matter? Itís like free room service for life.

But not so fast. Once the grasshoppers have departed, concerns begin to build up. But what if they could find "bigger bugs" to come help and fight? This is where our protagonist steps in: a wildly creative inventor named Flik (Dave Foley) is assigned to go out into the free world and gather up other bugs and insects that they could use as assets in their armies. He finds a whole bunch of them, too; one such is a ladybug who, as we like to say, is quite "unladylike." Flik at first seems convinced that these bugs can be great assets in overthrowing the grasshoppers from their colony. Too bad, though, that these bugs arenít trained for combat. Actually, theyíre all circus bugs who think that Flik is some sort of talent scout who could expose them to great success in the bug entertainment biz.

The story itself is simple enough to understand, but all around it, these plot twists and characters are formed to generate more than typical interest in the film. Stories in these movies tend to seem uninteresting and not very pleasing, even for computer animation, and without a proper setting of characters and/or intellect, the movieís stunning computer animation suffocates everything else. "Antz" used a story that seemed to go nowhere, but thanks to some of the interesting character setups in "A Bugís Life", we have here a movie that truly stands out (especially on DVD, which has proven to viewers that movies donít always lose their beauty once on the television screen).

In addition, the animation seems to be improving for these things. "Antz" dealt with more brown and gray colors to occupy the desolate landscape; it played on the same visual note that the rooms and human characters of "Toy Story" did. "A Bugís Life" fills in the gap with rich colors and visual appeal; they are so lifelike that itís what youíd expect to see under a magnifying glass. Sometimes, you even feel like youíre on that journey with Flik to recruit bugs for the army. The color and visual style are so appealing that itís unbelievably realistic, sort of.

I walked away not disappointed, but for once, impressed. I must admit that "Toy Story" and "Antz" were fairly respectable movies, but they had their limits as far as pushing the imagination goes. Now, thanks to hard work and devotion of PIXAR and the computer animated artists, we can finally be exposed to more than just limited creativity. This time, we are exposed to the unlimited journey of the minds and portraits that go through these animatorsí minds. I guess the third time really is the charm.

© 1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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