Film Review: Antz

Computer technology is integral to many blockbuster films these days. The train crash scene in The Fugitive was created using some sophisticated computer software. The re-release of Star Wars featured a computer generated Jabba The Hutt and the upcoming new Star Wars film will feature a frightening amount of computer generated imagery (aka CGI).

A few years ago, "Toy Story" was the first film to feature nothing but CGI. Although it could have been just a "showing-off" exercise or a cheesy excuse for daunting amounts of cute merchandise, it boasted a sharp script and a cast of wonderful characters voiced by, amongst others, Tim whatsisface from Home Improvement and the frighteningly earnest Tom Hanks. For all the high technology, the human creators never forget the importance of the script, pacing or characters. Kids and adults could love it equally, just as they might do with The Simpsons.

Antz is the latest Hollywood production where everything you see is CGI. Fortunately, the same film making techniques that made Toy Story so enjoyable are also in evidence here.

This film brings to life an ant colony, complete with tunnels, a queen and hundreds of worker and soldier ants. As such, it constitutes a greater leap from reality than the childrens bedroom antics of Toy Story. Like most animated films, this one has a hero, a villain and a moral, but it's laced with so many zippy one liners that that aspect never grates.

Rarely has an animated hero (who, of course, spends a significant portion of the film trying to win the girl) been this neurotic. Z (as our hero is known) constantly rambles on about the unfairness of his unfulfilling life, using many phrases that would sail merrily over the heads of the children in the audience. But then, what else would you expect from a character voiced by Woody Allen?

Frankly, wouldn't it be fun to see a non-animated film that could boast this cast? Sharon Stone has never done much for me (with or without her knickers), perhaps because she manages to avoid exuding any type of warmth in her characters. Here, freed from the threat of actually having to smile sweetly at the hero (the animators do that for her), she's just fine. Predictably, Hackman is damn solid as the evil General. But for me, even with Z's endless cavalcades of sentences, the drily uttered words of Sylvester Stallone as Z's best buddy prove the most fun.

If anything, I think adults might find this film more entertaining than children. How many 8 year olds would appreciate the early scene of Z rambling on to his therapist? There are *a lot* of words in this script.

For all the harmless fun of this film (for kids and adults), I can't help thinking it could have been better. If you're going to mess with the traditional notion of the hero (he who does much and speaks little), why not make them neurotic and female? Would it be that bad to have a female hero? If they're trying to subvert our expectations of a hero, why not deviate from the formula completely? Some might argue that this film is saying "the good guy always wins, no matter how odd he is". If that is not a valid criticism of this film (hell, it really is a lot of fun), at least it might be something worth thinking about.

© David Gilliver 1998

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