FILMS

An ant and his rants

Brian D. Johnson October 5 1998
FILMS

An ant and his rants

Brian D. Johnson October 5 1998

An ant and his rants

FILMS

ANTZ

Directed by Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson

Finally, a Woody Allen movie that is fun for the whole family. Allen did not write or direct Antz, a computer-animated feature set in an Orwellian ant colony. But he voices the starring role.

And there is something strangely satisfying, even appropriate, about “seeing” Woody cast as a bug. He plays Z, a neurotic worker ant who looks like E.T., with baleful eyes and a nervous smile of Chiclet teeth. Allen puts his stamp on the role from the opening scene:

Z lies on the psychiatrist’s couch, fretting about his fear of enclosed

spaces his “abandonment Wbodv Allen’s issues, and the dilemma of J

being “a middle child in a family of five million.” He is not cut out for a career in dirt—“I can only lift 10 times my own weight”— and the colony’s collective ethos makes him want to “curl up into a larval position and weep.”

With the one-liners zinging by, Antz has the giddy innocence of an early Woody Allen comedy. And it is remarkable how clearly his personality pops through the animation—apparently, he took some licence with the script by Todd Alcott and Chris and Paul Weitz.

Sylvester Stallone voices the role of Z’s best friend,

Weaver, a soldier ant who trades places with Z so that Z can get close to Princess Bala, an ant-babe played by Sharon Stone. The stellar cast of voices also includes Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin as a couple of snobbish wasps (in every sense of the word), Gene Hack-

Wood Allen's voice and wit enliven a giddy animated feature

man as a megalomaniacal villain, and Christopher Walken as his acerbic henchman.

Clocking in at a brisk 70 minutes, the story unfolds as a witty anti-fascist fable. General Mandible (Hackman) is intent on liquifying the colony to make way for a superior race of ants. And Z unwittingly gets in the way. The film-makers have great fun marshalling their ant masses into mock Triumph of the Will pageants. At one point, there is even a whiff of Marxist revolution as an ant yells: “It’s the workers who control the means of production!”

The action, meanwhile, is spectacular. Z survives a battle between ants and termites that leaves more carnage than the beach assault in Saving Private Ryan. He is chased by fireballs from a boy’s magnifying glass. He drags the Princess off to a promised land called Insectopia, a trash-can paradise with maggots roller-coasting through rotten apples.

A DreamWorks production, Antz is one of two computer-animated ant movies due out this fall—Disney will release A Bug’s Life on Nov. 25. Still, it is only the second fully computer-animated feature ever made (after 1995’s Toy Story). And, at the larval stage of the medium’s evolution, there is a thrilling novelty in seeing these hardbodied figures cavort in a limbo that lies somewhere between cartoon and live action. It is a world where a reincarnated Woody Allen seems right at home—as the ultimate ant (i)-hero.

BRIAN D. JOHNSON