Rating -

CGI Animated (US); 1998; Rated PG; 82 Minutes

Woody Allen: Z-4195
Sharon Stone: Bala
Gene Hackman: General Mandible
Sylvester Stallone: Weaver
Christopher Walken: Colonel Cutter
Danny Glover: Barbados
Dan Akroyd: Chip
Jane Curtin: Muffy
Anne Bancroft: Queen
Jennifer Lopez: Azteca

Produced by Penney Finkelman Cox, Brad Lewis, Sandra Rabins, Carl Rosendahl, Aron Warner and Patty Wooton; Directed by Eric Darnell, Lawrence Guterman and Tim Johnson; Screenwritten by Todd Alcott, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz

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Written by DAVID KEYES

The best way to describe the overall conception of Antz is to compare it to a piece of bubble gum. At first appearance, itís bright, tasty and saturated with intense flavor. However, it eventually develops into a flavorless mass of gruel that youíd like to spit out onto the ground so that it will stick on someoneís shoe.

Okay, perhaps that wasnít the right example. Letís just be blunt about it; Antz is a visual and beautiful piece of film, dulled by all the boring aspects that the average CGI animated story seems to develop nowadays. There havenít been many Computer generated movies on the market, but the ones that do exist (mainly Antz and Toy Story,) do not break ground story-wise. Yes, the visuals are pleasing, but such plots do not deserve to be matched up against these impressive animation techniques. Meaning, Antz is beautiful and visually appealing, but uninspired in the script department.

And this, I suppose, is a big surprise coming from such calibrated talents like Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Spielberg is one of the 7 wonders of the cinema, while Katzenberg is considered the divine and supreme ruler of animation. After all, he did produce the biggest Disney animated successes during his term as Chairman there.

Maybe itís the whole idea of computer animation. It appears that directors and animators have no real creative ideas when it comes to making one of these things. Okay, Iím wrong again. These are creative ideas, but they donít put passion and artistic enthusiasm in them. In evidence of this observation, Toy Story is the key exhibit. Making a movie about toys who come to life seems great, even for CGI animated tales. But did the movie really go anywhere? Did it display anything appealing in the landscape other than the actual toys? Did the plot take any exciting turns? Maybe to you, but not to me.

The moment Antz is on the screen, the story is predictable and has no pizzazz, although the visuals are apparently the best ever. Itís about an ant named Z-4195, voiced by Woody Allen, who obviously has to be in a Steven Spielberg film, because he has the eyes of E.T. He meets an attractive woman in a bar one day (yes, these things apparently have bars in their underground habitat), and they become attracted to each other.

The female ant I speak of is, of course, Bala (voiced by Sharon Stone) who I feel is the most intelligent creature ever to walk into one of these CGI movies. They carry a chemistry together that feels like one youíd find in an early Spencer Tracy flick. That, of course is the strong point to this whole idea.

The whole movie then generates into a typical action-adventure with romance on the side. "Z," you see, being only a worker ant, asks a friend of his, named Weaver (Sylvester Stallone), to trade places with him in the army. This is so he can impress his new love Bala, who, as we learn later on, is a member of the colonyís royal family.

That, Iím afraid, is the problem. In his desperation to impress his Ďbeloved,í they encounter several problems on the surface world that are, yes, visually ambitious, but no more creative ideas than the ones displayed in a typical animated film.

The story is no more interesting than Toy Story. Yes, it has some better visual style, but in truth, Toy Story was a somewhat better movie, because the story wasnít as predictable or as obvious and plastic as the one in Antz. If this genre is ever to get off the floor and start producing results worth mentioning, then it needs a script that doesnít feel typical.

The movie, of course, has its broad energy through the animation, but a story like this has been seen before; mainly in the average live-action movie. If you manage to take your eyes of the visuals just for a second, Antz is simply Romancing The Stone with heavy eye makeup. Or a piece of bubble gum, as I said earlier.

Though I doubt youíd want to get it on your shoe.

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