A Bug's Life

on November 20, 1998 by Wade Major
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A handful of cursory similarities to Dreamorks' "Antz" notwithstanding, Disney's long-awaited "A Bug's Life" emerges as the clear winner of the computer-generated insect competition. Funnier, flashier, more colorful and imaginative, better animated and, most importantly, better written, this second collaboration from Disney and Bay Area-based animation studio Pixar is a festive delight sure to please adults and children of all ages.
Like the first Disney/Pixar effort, "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life" succeeds by creating a breathtakingly comprehensive world in miniature and imposing upon it a meticulously well-scripted concept. The starting point here is a small ant colony that has been virtually enslaved by the tyranny of a grasshopper gang led by Hopper (Kevin Spacey), an egomaniac who demands that the ants spend their free time gathering food for the grasshoppers to eat during their frequent stopovers. Despite outnumbering the grasshoppers, most of the antsnever question the relationship between nature's creations. Flik (Dave Foley), however, questions everything. Deeply individualistic, inventive and clever, Flik is forever urging the rest of the ants to think progressively, with overzealous admonishments that serve to annoy more than inspire.
When Flik suggests that the colony seek out the aid of "warrior bugs" to help defend against the grasshoppers, skeptical colonists instead see a chance to rid themselves of Flik once and for all, sending the adventurous ant to accomplish the task himself. Only when Flik returns with said warrior bugs does the colony begin to see him for the courageous visionary he really is. There's just one remaining hitch: the bugs that Flik has enlisted, unbeknownst to him, aren't really warrior bugs, but circus bugs who have accompanied him on the belief that their task is to entertain rather than fight.
As he did with "Toy Story," director John Lassiter brilliantly exploits the material for both laughs and pathos, while pushing the technological parameters of computer animation even beyond the already impressive feat of "Toy Story." Similarities with "Antz," of course, are certain to plague the film to a small degree: Both films deal with individualistic misfit ants whose courage in seeking the experience of the outside world enables them to save the colony and win the affections of the colony's princess (voiced here by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who in the process is able to ascend nobly to the throne of her mother, the Queen (Phyllis Diller). The particulars of the two films, however, are so radically different as to be beyond comparison. Whereas "Antz" centers on the political machinations of the ant colony, "A Bug's Life" casts a wider focus on the world of all insects--a wiser and more interesting choice. Minus "Antz's" occasionally raw humor, "A Bug's Life" is also better suited to family viewing, with its splendid cast of bizarre and charming bugs perfectly pitched to capitalize on a holiday marketing bonanza.
For the DVD Review Click Here Voices by Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Hyde Pierce, Denis Leary and Phyllis Diller. Directed by John Lasseter. Written by Andrew Stanton, Donald McEnery & Bob Shaw. Produced by Darla K. Anderson and Kevin Reher. A Buena Vista release. Animated. Rated G. Running time: 95 min
Tags: oices by Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Hyde Pierce, Denis Leary, Phyllis Diller, Directed by John Lasseter. Written by Andrew Stanton, Donald McEnery, Bob Shaw, Produced by Darla K. Anderson, Kevin Reher, Buena Vista
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