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Critics everywhere have compared Disney Pixar's A Bug's Life to Dreamworks' Antz. Don't expect me to be any different; it is virtually impossible not to compare these two pretty special films. As I was wracking my brain trying to figure out why I liked Antz more than this, it suddenly hit me: Antz deals with its themes in more of a theoretical sense, whilst A Bug's Life is very practical. For example, in Antz, the enemy was depicted as the colony itself - their inability to think for themselves. But in this film, the enemy is in the very practical form of ruthless grasshoppers.
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It is rare for Disney films to have a good amount of depth and meaning
(The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the only in recent memory), but A Bug's
Life - a potentially brilliant film - is just a little too thin an
experience. But without being hyper-critical, this is a very good and
solid film, which will no doubt score big with the Christmas box office.
The dangerous Hopper (voice of Kevin Spacey) and his ruthless band of grasshoppers threaten to wipe out a colony of ants, which is led by the ant queen (Phyllis Diller) and Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Flik (Dave Foley, of TV's NewsRadio) is an ant whose experimental views on technology get him in deep trouble, but he rises to the challenge of saving the colony by enlisting the help of "warrior bugs." Unfortunately, he mistakes circus-performing insects for warriors, and disaster brews as Hopper's threats become closer to reality.
One of the foremost reasons to see A Bug's Life is its clever jokes, some of them parodies of our modern world. When a fallen leaf interrupts a group of ants collecting food, one ant screams "I'm lost! Where's the line?" Rescue workers quickly arrive at the scene. "This is nothing compared to the twig of '93!"
Many other gags, courtesy of script writers Andrew Stanton, Donald McEnery and Bob Shaw, evolve around the crazy personalities of the circus performers. A repressed stick insect, a male ladybug and a chubby caterpillar (who is eager to transform into a "beautiful butterfly") are among the delightful characters delivering the jokes.
Kevin Spacey plays Hopper with a wickedly placid presence. His voice is controlled but his anger is fierce, a little reminiscent of his role as a serial killer in Seven. Spacey is the best part of A Bug's Life, as this superb actor proves that not being seen doesn't remove any power from his performances. Dave Foley plays a similar role to his part in NewsRadio; acting as the sane center - the instigator that all the other characters can react around. David Hyde Pierce's voice is instantly recognizable from the hit sitcom Frasier, and is a welcome presence who delivers his trademark personality of intelligence amongst confusion. Almost everyone else seems uniformly average, ranging from the lifeless Julia Louis-Dreyfus to the over the top Madeline Kahn (playing the caterpillar).
A Bug's Life may have had it a little easy from critics. Its plot is lightweight, but it is not hard to be sucked into the films illustrious computer animation. These visuals are often a delight, although I was surprised to find that they are significantly less detailed than those in Antz (especially when we get a peek at the world beneath the ground). A Bug's Life also looks much more spherical, with a smooth and shiny design.
Definitely the best moments of A Bug's Life are near its end, in the final battle between Flick and Hopper, and the delightful roll of film through the credits (when an original gag is staged, which gives us an insight into the film's real actors). Whether you prefer these types of films as theoretical or practical, sophisticated or slim, Antz and A Bug's Life are both terrifically entertaining. Now it's just a case of whether or not Disney can provide depth and meaning in the same package.
|Review © copyright Luke Buckmaster|
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|Just the facts:
Title: Bug's Life (1998)
Dave Foley .... Flik (voice) |
Kevin Spacey .... Hopper (voice)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus .... Princess Atta (voice)
Hayden Panettiere .... Dot (voice)
Phyllis Diller (I) .... Queen (voice)
Richard Kind .... Molt (voice)
David Hyde Pierce .... Slim (voice)
Joe Ranft .... Heimlich (voice)
Denis Leary .... Francis (voice)
Jonathan Harris (I) .... Manny (voice)
Madeline Kahn .... Gypsy (voice)
Bonnie Hunt .... Rosie (voice)
Michael McShane (I) .... Tuck/Roll (voice)
John Ratzenberger .... P.T. Flea (voice)
Brad Garrett .... Dim (voice)
Roddy McDowall .... Mr. Soil (voice)
Edie McClurg .... Dr. Flora (voice)
Alex Rocco (I) .... Thorny (voice)
David Ossman .... Cornelius (voice)
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia copyright © Festivale 1998 All rights reserved
Filed: 28-Nov-1998 Last updated: Last tested: 3-Jul-2014 Last compiled: 3-Jul-2014
Entire site refreshed: Dec 2008-Feb 2009 | Site URL transferred: Jan 2005 (previously www.festivale.webcentral.com.au)