Bala: I’ve been kidnapped by the village idiot.
Z: Who’s the bigger idiot? The idiot, or the idiot who gets kidnapped by the idiot?
When I watch movies for my blog, I write notes. They’re mostly my thoughts, random anecdotes, things that crack me up, things that confuse me, things I never caught before, etc. I’m trying really hard to watch these movies in a whole new light, having actually decide to rip them to shreds and review them. Sometimes I can get past nostalgia and see the movie for however good (or bad) it is. Sometimes I can’t. And I must say, Antz is one of those that I found very surprising. I’ll tell you why.
When I was a kid, Antz was…. Ok. I was 13 when it came out, and I really didn’t “get” this movie. I definitely saw it. It was enjoyable, but in a year when this was being compared to Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, I much rather would have watched Pixar. In my opinion then, as well as now, these two movies should NEVER be compared. They are so different that it’s almost sad they came out in the same year. A Bug’s Life is more your typical family/kids movie. Antz is so much more. It’s more adult. It transcends. It’s edgy. It gave you an idea about what kind of different animation company this Dreamworks was going to be.
So what’s it about? In an ant colony, an ant named Z is having a hard time fitting in with society (seriously, he has an identity crisis, which I think is hilarious). He’s sick of being a worker and dreams of doing something with his life other than moving dirt. Meanwhile, the princess Bala does her typical Jasmin thing – she leaves the palace and mingles with the commoners, upset in her place and the fact she has to marry the general. They meet, Z impresses her. Z then switches places with his friend, weaver, to have the possiblity of seeing Bala again. Well, he ends up going to war. He returns, the only survivor, and word gets out he’s just a worker. He escapes and inadvertantly kidnaps the princess, who is not so impressed with him any longer.
She complains and tells him to take her back, but he’s not having any of it. Instead, he wants to go to Insectopia. She reluctantly follows, only to end up seeing Z for the nice guy he is. However the general and the rest of the ants in the nest still believe she was kidnapped, and soon she is taken and returned to the nest.
Ahh yes, there is also an evil plot by the general to seal off most of the ants in their newly constructed “mega-tunnel” and have them drown so that he and Bala can start a new colony. Obviously Z and Bala find out about this and they then have to save the colony that’s trapped in the Mega-tunnel. Oh, and Z starts a revolution. There’s actually a lot more going on here than it seems like.
Three times in my notes I had written “This movie is large/big.” that’s what I mean. There is SO MUCH going on in this movie that it’s hard to see it all in a first time viewing. I mean, it’s easy to follow the storylines, but this movie is so much more than just a movie about a bunch of ants, utopia, being yourself, etc. The movie opens with an ant having an existential crisis for goodness sake! I never read into it as a kid. Maybe I didn’t see it because I didn’t have the life experience. But as an adult, I feel I know exactly what Z is feeling. Knowing you’re so much more but you’re just… stuck.
This movie is about finding your place in the big world. It’s about realizing that even the little guy has a reason for being. It’s about trying to stand out and be yourself even when the world isn’t letting you. I think possibly my favorite part about this movie is the fact that Z doesn’t really want to be a pillar of change. HE just wants to find out what makes him happy. But yet, he becomes a name that every ant knows. He becomes the face of a revolution that happens when he’s not even there. I almost like this kind of hero the best: the hero who doesn’t know that he’s a hero. It’s refreshing.
Alright, so what about the characters. Woody Allen is amazing as Z. Honestly, he’s pretty much playing himself, and he’s good at it. He’s got that self deprecating sense of humor, that bit of depression, but is actually an enjoyable character because he is just so darn interesting compared to the rest of the ants. Princess Bala is… ok. She’s very cut and dry. Like I said, she’s like Jasmin, or any other princess who doesn’t want the responsibility and falls in love with the commoner. It’s been done. She doesn’t really have anything that interesting that makes her stand out, which is kinda sad, because to go along with Z, you almost want that.
Z’s friends Weaver and Azteca are interesting I guess. Weaver is a big soldier ant, and Azteca is a worker girl who falls in love with him. It’s their fault Z is a big face of a revolution, so I guess they serve their purpose. Weaver’s much more entertaining than Azteca, but both are nothing really to write home about.
The Queen is kinda boring but regal, and a lot of the small supporting characters are actually entertaining, from the very posh upclass yellow jackets to the stoner bugs at Insectopia. I will mention another soldier ant named Barbados, who is with Z when they go to war with the termites. He’s voiced by Danny Glover, and dies in the battle, but man, I would have loved to see more of his character. I don’t know why, but he always reminds me of Bubba from Forrest Gump. Which is hilarious because he’s literally NOTHING like that character. I don’t know why I make that connection, but I do. But yeah, he was a smart ant, funny. I would have liked to see more of him.
The fact I can’t even remember the General’s name should tell you something about what I think of this villain. Some good points I guess are that is he very smart and very cunning, but he’s just… boring. Every time he opens his mouth I want to punch him and tell him to say something more interesting. Then there’s his right hand-ant, Cutter. It’s Christopher walken trying to play a bad guy. Yeah. You seriously cannot look at that ant and take him seriously, because it’s Christopher freaking Walken.
The jokes that this movie gets right they get really right. They did a really good job taking the world and showing you how an ant would see it. The feet from the person, the magnifying glass, the gum, the picnic, and of course, insectopia. It’s a garbage can. But it’s awesome.
Antz is a really good romp, despite a few characters that you just can’t connect with. They’re interesting enough to keep your attention, and you really do connect with Z. You want to know what happens to him and you care about how he feels. The others? Not so much. This movie is much bigger than it seems. It’s deep. But at the same time, it’s fun for kids. (warning: they do swear in this movie!). At the time it came out, dreamworks was a small motion picture company, and this showed us what was going to come. And, for the most part, it was good.
I give Antz (1998) a 3.75 out of 5.
Next up: The Prince of Egypt (1998)