Fantastic. The Ant Bully is just a fantastic animated film on multiple levels. The animation is superb, the characters are wonderfully memorable, the cast of voice actors boasts many a big name, and the story is as educational as it is entertaining. Adults should have already learned the message of this film, but they can still enjoy The Ant Bully just as much as the kids. Frankly, I had never even heard of this movie until a couple of weeks ago, and that's a real shame because this is an animated film that should have been talked about just as much as Cars, Happy Feet, etc.
Like Lucas (Zach Tyler), the little boy in this film, I used to squirt water on ants and destroy their little ant hills - I'm not proud of that, but I was just a dumb kid. Lucas has yet to learn that tormenting other creatures is bad. A local bully keeps picking on him because he's little, so he turns around and picks on ants because he is bigger than they are. For their part, the ants in his front yard have had enough of the horrible beast they call "Destroyer," and thanks to a young wizard named Zoc (Nicolas Cage), they have a way to fight back. Using a potion, they shrink Lucas down to their size and carry him back to the colony. Many of the ants want to kill and eat their nemesis, but the benevolent Queen (Meryl Streep) decrees that he is to remain in the colony and, through training, learn to become an ant himself. Zoc's girlfriend Hova (Julia Roberts) eagerly volunteers to train him, which threatens to drive a wedge between her and Zoc.
Lucas makes for a stubborn student, rejecting the teamwork inherent in ant society; he doesn't need anybody's help, thank you very much. Not having any human friends, he is even reluctant to accept the friendship that ants such as Hova offer him. When the colony finds itself in danger, though - particularly when The Cloudbreather shows up to exterminate the lawn - Lucas sees the error of his ways, begins to understand how important friends are in life, and even goes so far as to risk his own life to protect those around him. It's hard for a child to realize that a "me first" philosophy won't get you very far in life, and The Ant Bully communicates that very important lesson in a wonderful, expressive way. While most animated films play strictly for laughs, The Ant Bully uses comedy to reinforce one of life's most important lessons. Yes, there's an element of socialism in it all (and heaven knows how much I hate socialism), but the true message of the film is a good and proper one.
I love this film's animation and cinematography. The attention to detail is amazing; for example, it would have been all too easy to just give the ants plain white eyes, but these animators went the extra mile to make their ants' eyes reflect the convexity of real ants' compound eyes. In terms of the cinematography, I found myself thinking back to some of the epic battle scenes from the original Star Wars trilogy as the ants rushed to defend their base from an aerial assault by wasps. I also loved the scene where the view pulled way back for a dramatic ant-sized explosion, only to show - from a human perspective - the very modest poof of a little firecracker. That doesn't sound like much, but I thought it was brilliant. In fact, I thought this entire movie was brilliant. And wait - there's more. You also get to hear the great Ricardo Montalban and Bruce Campbell lend their voices to a couple of characters, as well. Wow! What else could you ask for? Truly, The Ant Bully is one of the best animated films I've seen in some time.