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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
John A. Davis
Cast:
Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Zach Tyler, Regina King, Bruce Campbell, Lily Tomlin, Cheri Oteri
Writing Credits:
John A. Davis, John Nickle (book)

Tagline:
The battle for the lawn is on.

Synopsis:
From Academy Award nominated filmmaker John A. Davis (Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) and producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman (The Polar Express), The Ant Bully tells a witty and heartwarming story about a 10-year-old boy who embarks on a remarkable journey. New in town, friendless and tormented by a neighborhood bully, young Lucas Nickle has been taking out his frustration on the innocent ant hill in his yard. But one day the ants retaliate. Using a magic potion, they shrink Lucas down to ant size and sentence him to live like an ant in their colony. In this strange new world Lucas will learn important lessons about friendship, get a whole new perspective on life and ultimately find the courage to stand up for himself.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$8.432 million on 3050 screens.
Domestic Gross
$28.075 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 11/28/2006

Bonus:
• “It Takes a Colony” Featurette
• Animated Shorts
• “Ant Habitat” Screensaver
• Additional Scenes
• Trailers


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Ant Bully (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 15, 2006)

After the Great Animated Bug Rush of 1998, filmmakers shied away from cartoon pests. 2006 finally allowed them to explore insects once again, and The Ant Bully dug into their lives in an unusual way. Bigger kids pick on young Lucas (voiced by Zach Tyler Eisen), so he takes out his aggressions on those smaller than him: ants. Insectoid “wizard” Zoc (Nicolas Cage) gets the assignment to find methods to fight back against “the destroyer”. He plans to fight aggressively, whereas his girlfriend Hova (Julia Roberts) thinks they should try to communicate with their oppressor.

In a way, both get their way. Zoc’s potion reduces Lucas down to ant-size, and the bugs kidnap him. They take him to their colony where the Queen (Meryl Streep) decrees that Lucas must live among them and adopt their ways. Hova receives the job to teach him how to become an ant. The movie follows Lucas’s adjustment to his new surroundings as he attempts to earn his way home. We also see

If nothing else, Bully boasts a stellar voice cast. We get three Oscar winners – Streep, Cage and Roberts – as well as nominees Paul Giamatti and Lily Tomlin and other names such as Regina King and Ricardo Montalban. Most big-budget animated flicks pour on the stars, but those of Bully shine a little more brightly than most.

Even with all that talent, however, Bully lacks much personality. In terms of visual design, you’ll be forgiven if you think Bully comes as a sequel to 1998’s Antz. The insects bear a definite resemblance to those from the earlier flick, though they’re not quite clones. Of course, computer animation has come a long way in the last eight years, so Bully presents a more detailed offering, but it still will likely remind all of the DreamWorks effort.

Since it integrates a human protagonist, Bully doesn’t simply regurgitate the plot of Antz, but it manages to hit some of the same notes. Indeed, while the unusual decision to shrink a kid and teach him to be an ant seems ripe for exploration, it really doesn’t work out as terribly interesting. Inevitable lessons are learned. Lucas figures out how to be friends with others and become more compassionate, while ants get a different take on humans. Bonds made, friendships forged, blah blah blah.

And that’s a problem with The Ant Bully: it’s pretty blah. Granted, the movie manages to maintain our attention reasonably well, and it never really falters. On the other hand, it does little to truly capture out attention either. It features a serviceable story with some decent action and a few minor laughs, but it falls short of attempts to become memorable.


The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio A-/ Bonus C-

The Ant Bully appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board, the movie boasted an excellent transfer.

Sharpness appeared solid. Virtually no signs of softness marred the presentation. The image remained crisp and well defined throughout the flick. Moiré effects and jagged edges demonstrated no concerns, and I saw no examples of edge enhancement. Source flaws were absent as well. I noticed no signs of specks, marks or other issues.

Colors worked well. The natural ant complexion led to a lot of reds and browns, but the many outdoor scenes opened up the palette well. I thought the hues seemed quite lively and dynamic. Black levels were nicely deep and rich, while shadow detail came across as appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. Overall, Bully provided a very pleasing picture.

Also quite good was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Ant Bully. In the forward domain, the music showed fine stereo imaging, while effects blended together neatly and smoothly. Those elements moved from speaker to speaker cleanly as the track created a solid sense of atmosphere. It even included a fair amount of dialogue from the side speakers, which offered a good impression of breadth.

Surround usage generally favored reinforcement of music and effects, but the rears came to life nicely during a number of scenes. Various battles showed effective use of the surrounds, as did the other action sequences. When the water roars into the anthill, it provided an engulfing setting. The mix really helped bring the material to life.

Audio quality consistently seemed positive. Dialogue was natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music was rich and warm throughout the movie, with good clarity as well. Bass stomped to life nicely during the louder scenes and effects always seemed clear and accurate, with no signs of distortion or other concerns. This was a nicely engaging soundtrack that earned a solid “A-“.

A smattering of extras fill out the package. It Takes a Colony presents a 16-minute and 35-second featurette. The show mixes movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and comments from director/producer/screenwriter John A. Davis most of the time, though we hear from a few others as well. Additional remarks come from lead storyboard artist/workbook artist Tom Morgan, head of environmental modeling Todd Fechter, head of character modeling Tom Jordan, head of character rigging Michael Comet, layout artist Chris Sherrod, character animator/concept artist Sarah Mensinga, and head of lighting Ian Megibben.

The program looks at the movie’s roots and development, visual design and story emphasis, casting and voice recording, storyboarding and the animation processes, and Davis’s role as director. Quick and fun, “Colony” offers a nice little synopsis of the production. It rushes through the subjects but still gives us good notes and information. Though animation won’t learn anything revelatory here, the show works as a neat summary.

Seven Animated Shorts come next. And by “shorts”, they mean really short; taken together, they run only eight minutes and 18 seconds. These appear to have been created for promotional reasons, though I’m not sure where they were originally used. In any case, they’re reasonably entertaining little pieces and a nice addition to the DVD.

Ant Habitat provides an odd little screensaver. It goes for 80 seconds but cycles so it’ll run endlessly if you allow it. This creates a cute though inconsequential extra.

10 Additional Scenes occupy a total of 11 minutes, 21 seconds. They consist of a mix of finished material, rough animation, and storyreels. These offer a little more character development for Hova as well as early film info about the exterminator and Lucas’s parents. We also see how Lucas and the ants made it across his family’s living room plus a flashback to a formative event in Zoc’s life. Most of these are interesting, though the one between Lucas’s dad and the exterminator works best since it more clearly explains why Beals has Lucas sign the contract.

We find the trailer for Bully, and the DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Unaccompanied Minors, Polar Express, Hoot and Saving Shiloh.

A serviceable flick, The Ant Bully offers minor entertainment. However, in a world with so many really good animated movies, “minor entertainment” doesn’t pay the bills. The film keeps us occupied for about 90 minutes but just doesn’t go any higher than that. The DVD provides very strong picture and audio along with a few decent extras. You might rent this one for the kids if they’re bored with the usual animated suspects, but that’s about all I can recommend.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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