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"A BUG'S LIFE"
(1998) (voices of Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey) (G)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
None Minor Heavy *Heavy None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor None Moderate None None
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
None None None Minor Mild


QUICK TAKE:
Children's/Computer Animated: An ant mistakenly recruits a group of insect circus performers, believing them to be fierce warriors, hoping they'll defend his colony from a gang of greedy and domineering grasshoppers.
PLOT:
Each summer, a greedy and domineering group of grasshoppers descend on Ant Island demanding a large portion of the ants' annual harvest. Unfortunately, this time around an industrious ant by the name of Flik (voice of DAVE FOLEY), who had hoped to put an industrial revolution spin on their harvesting technique, accidentally causes their edible offering to be lost for good.

When the grasshoppers arrive, they're none too happy. Their leader, the malevolent Hopper (voice of KEVIN SPACEY), threatens the ants and tells them that they have until the end of the summer to gather up another offering. Upon the grasshoppers' quick departure, the colony's Queen (voice of PHYLLIS DILLER) gets everyone working double time, but few believe they'll be able to meet the quota and most worry that there won't be any food left over for the ants if they do.

Sensing this and realizing it's all his fault, Flik comes up with a plan to leave Ant Island, recruit some bigger bugs who will fight the grasshoppers, and then prepare for their return. Unfortunately, other than Dot (voice of HAYDEN PANETTIERE) and the rest of the young ants known as "blueberries," no one thinks this will work. Nonetheless, the colony's council, including Princess Atta (voice of JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS), agree to his plan since it will get him out of their antennae.

It doesn't take long for Flik to find his "warriors," but unbeknownst to him, he recruits some lowly insect circus performers who've just been fired by carnival owner and barker, P.T. Flea (voice of JOHN RATZENBERGER). Among them is Manny (voice of JONATHAN HARRIS), a pompous praying mantis; his partner, Gypsy (voice of MADELINE KAHN), a multicolored moth; and Rosie (voice of BONNIE HUNT), a friendly black widow spider.

There's also Slim (voice of DAVID HYDE PIERCE), an intellectual walking stick; Heimlich (voice of JOE RANFT), a scaredy-cat German caterpillar; Francis (voice of DENIS LEARY), a decidedly manly ladybug; Dim (voice of BRAD GARRETT), a dimwitted rhino beetle; and Tuck & Roll (voice of MICHAEL McSHANE), a pair of acrobatic Hungarian pill bugs who always smile because they can't understand a word anyone is saying.

Thinking that Flik has hired them for their circus act, the performing insects head back with him to Ant Island. When he and they learn of the others' true identity and purpose, however, it quickly becomes clear that the ants may be in trouble when Hopper and his gang reappear at the end of the summer.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Yes, it's almost a given that every preteen and many teens will want to see this film.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: G
For not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
While it's questionable how much kids see animated characters as role models, here's a quick look at the major ones in this film.
  • Flik is an enthusiastic inventor who, despite occasionally being blinded by his zeal, turns out to be the hero when helped by the others.
  • Hopper is the domineering leader of the grasshoppers who threatens and intimidates the ants into giving him and his gang free food.
  • Francis is a tough ladybug whose gruff demeanor is a result of being a guy who looks like a lady, but he eventually softens up as the story unfolds.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 9 out of 10
    Significantly raising the standard for computer animated films and overall family-based entertainment, Disney/Pixar's "A Bug's Life" is an absolute delight. Certain to entertain kids of all ages, the film is a visual treat like the recent and similarly constructed "Antz," but far exceeds that picture in characterization, story and complete enjoyment. Geared more for kids than the PG rated "Antz" -- but just as easily accessible for fun-loving adults -- this should be one of the big hits of the 1998 holiday movie season.

    Like their earlier, groundbreaking, and completely computer generated film, "Toy Story," the wildly imaginative folks at Pixar have delivered another technically amazing picture. Pushing its computers and artists/technicians to the limit -- with the more elaborate scenes reportedly taking more than 100 hours to process per frame -- the picture''s visuals are nothing short of breathtaking.

    Compared to "Antz" that was often darkly lit and occasionally foreboding in its mostly subterranean setting, "A Bug's Life" unfolds in a bright, airy, and colorful place. With a great deal of sweeping camera movement through the film's near microscopic world, the visuals not only showcase the massive advances in computer generated imaging, but also make this make believe world even that much more realistic.

    Without any substance, however, all of those visual bells and whistles are, well, just attractive bells and whistles, and this film fortunately delivers far more than that. While the individual and collective images are often astounding, after a while you become accustomed to them.

    Not only is that a testament to the effects -- good ones don't draw undue attention to themselves for being effects -- but also to the story that's so entertaining and well-told that you soon forget you're watching something spit out by a computer. As such, the film is so perfectly executed that the characters, their world, and the plot in which they find themselves become believably real.

    Of course, it's those pesky humans who actually concocted this delight, and kudos should go out to co-directors John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton (they also did "Toy Story") and screenwriters Donald McEnery & Bob Shaw (who cowrote "Hercules"). While the story isn't overly complex, it unfolds in such an entertaining and fast-paced fashion that you won't be able to wipe the resulting grin from your face no matter how hard you try.

    Filled with ample amounts of material to amuse and entertain viewers no matter what generation they call their own, the film has that energetic, high quality feel that "Toy Story" similarly and seemingly effortlessly exuded.

    What makes both films work so well and be completely entertaining, however, are the familiar, perfectly developed and executed cast of characters. While all kids obviously love toys -- thus the popularity of "Toy Story" and its high number of sales of "action" figures -- they also like bugs.

    Whereas "Antz" pretty much limited its cast to such critters, the filmmakers here made sure to populate the story with a cross section of the insect world. Not only does that insure that a greater amount of such "action" figures will end up as kids' gifts this year, but it also gives the film more variety and flavor.

    To be truthful, the majority of the characters are ants, and the lead "performer" worker ant, Flik, is somewhat similar to Z (voiced by Woody Allen in the other film) in that he wants to change the way things are done in the colony. As voiced by Dave Foley (from TV's "NewsRadio"), the character is appropriately developed and easily gets the audience to root for his heroic -- if somewhat misguided -- efforts. Additional ant characters -- as voiced by the likes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Phyllis Diller, and young Hayden Panettiere -- are also well done.

    It's the other insect characters, however, who easily steal the show. As voiced by Kevin Spacey ("The Negotiator," "The Usual Suspects"), the character of Hopper, the grasshopper leader, is a perfect villain for a kids movie. Appropriately meanspirited but intellectually disgusted by his underlings, Hopper might scare some kids in the tradition of other Disney bad guys, but is a blast to watch, especially with Spacey's vocals giving his character even more of an edge.

    Obviously, the most fun characters are those wacky circus performer bugs, and their characterizations -- and the vocal talents chosen to speak for them -- are as perfectly done as the supporting toy cast in "Toy Story." From David Hyde Pierce (Niles on TV's "Frasier") as the intellectual walking stick who's always tired of playing the broom, to Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith on the old "Lost in Space" show) as the pompous praying mantis, all these characters are as much fun -- and more -- as any of the sidekick characters from Disney's previous animated efforts.

    While Tuck & Roll -- the two Hungarian pill bugs who grin all of the time because they don't understand a word anyone's saying -- are delightfully amusing, the characters voiced by Denis Leary ("Wag the Dog," "Judgement Night") -- as the manly ladybug Francis who gets much grief for being what he is -- and Joe Ranft (a Disney/Pixar story man) -- as the always hungry, but often cowardly German caterpillar -- are probably the best.

    Equally complex in computer generated visuals and subtle story nuances, the film should probably be seen more than once just to make sure that nothing's missed. From the fun and inventive use of motorcycle-like sounds when the grasshoppers start their wings, to the use of discarded food containers as buildings in the "big city," and an old sombrero as a Mexican "biker" cantina, the film's never short on being inventive.

    Finally, to top off this great picture, the filmmakers have even included a host of faux flubs and goofs from the film that play during the end credits where the animated characters mess up their lines and miss their marks just like their human counterparts often due. Like icing on the cake, make sure you stick around for that treat.

    Filled with more than enough funny, adventurous and interesting material to keep children and adults alike fully satisfied during its ninety some minute duration, this is easily one of the best family films to come along in years, and it should enjoy as much success as its computer- generated predecessor, "Toy Story." We give this highly imaginative and entertaining film a big 9 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Like many G rated animated films, the only "big" issue here is that some scenes may be intense or scary to younger kids. As such, several moments are quite intense (some in an adventurous fashion, others involving somewhat perilous matters), but depending on your child's age, maturity level, and tolerance for such scenes, they may or may not be upsetting to them.

    Beyond that, several imitative phrases are uttered during the film, and some violence occurs as the grasshoppers -- complete with bad attitudes -- briefly attack the ants (particularly Flik). Other than that, however, the rest of the film is free of any major objectionable content. Should you still be concerned, however, we suggest that you take a closer look at what's been listed.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • None.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • A bartender asks "Who ordered the poo poo platter?" and some flies quickly descend upon it.
  • A mosquito orders a "Bloody Mary" at a bar, gets a drop of blood, and quickly sucks it down.
  • Some school-age ants put on a "play" that includes a mural depicting the pending grasshopper/circus performer battle and shows some drawn blood on it.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Obviously Hopper and his cronies have both for not only threatening the ants, but also for always demanding free food from them year after year.
  • Some flies have both at a circus for heckling the performers.
  • Playing off the fact that Francis is a male ladybug, some others comment, "You fight like a girl."
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Depending on a child's age, maturity level, and tolerance for such material, the following may be very frightening, only somewhat scary, or a lot of suspenseful fun to them.
  • The menacing appearance of Hopper and other grasshoppers, along with their meanspirited disposition and treatment of the ants, may be scary or unsettling to younger kids.
  • Likewise, their first appearance, marked by the ants sounding the alarm, scurrying into their anthill and then cowering in fear from the ominous buzzing/humming sounds from above (and the grasshoppers crashing through the "ceiling"), may have the same effect.
  • Hopper grabs little Dot and is menacing toward her.
  • During a staged trick gone wrong, P.T. Flea finds himself stuck on flypaper soaked in flammable liquid as a series of matches burns his way (played for adventurous and fun suspense).
  • Flik and others must contend with a large (to them) bird trying to catch and eat them and there are several close calls. At one point, Dot floats off on a dandelion and the bird goes right after her and then later tries to peck down at her and a momentarily unconscious Flick in a crevice in the ground. Heimlich also tries to distract the bird, but then finds himself stuck in a crevice with the bird approaching. Such "fun" scares may be a bit intense for younger kids, but everyone makes it out okay.
  • A scene where the grasshoppers slowly come walking toward the camera out of the fog may also be scary or unsettling to younger viewers.
  • Some kids may be scared when Dot falls from a cliff, but she finally gets her little wings to work and she flies to safety.
  • A fake bird, piloted by Flik and also containing Dot and her friends, catches on fire and crashes to the ground.
  • The ending sequence, where a thunderstorm unleashes huge drops of water that fall like bombs onto the ants and grasshoppers, while Hopper threatens Flik and the others, may also be tense or frightening to very young viewers.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Shut up," "You parasite," ""Poo poo heads," "Ingrates," "Who ordered the poo poo platter?," "You fight like a girl," "Stupid," "Loser," "Screw up," "Turn your butt off," "Idiot," "You moron," and "You piece of dirt."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful music (some of it action-oriented) occurs during the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • None.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • None.
  • SMOKING
  • None.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • None.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • That the ants finally stand up for their rights against Hopper and his thugs, and are successful at that, and everything else they do, because they act as a team.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Hopper slams his brother against a wall, and after stating that he doesn't kill him due to a promise he made to his mother, he punches another grasshopper in anger.
  • Some flies throw some sort of goo at Manny during a performance.
  • A miscellaneous bug gets zapped by an electric bug zapper and falls to the ground.
  • Having learned their real mission, Tuck (or Roll) comes up and smacks Flick.
  • The grasshoppers use mosquitos as darts and thus throw them into dartboards.
  • Hopper unleashes a torrent of small items from a bottle onto several grasshopper dissenters who are then buried (but we don't know their fate).
  • Dot and her pals hear Hopper's plan to take all of the food and then to squash the Queen.
  • A grasshopper kicks an ant.
  • Tuck & Roll get into a brief pushing match.
  • A grasshopper hits Flik several times, knocking him to the ground. Hopper then smacks Flik and prepares to stomp on him. After a rainstorm interrupts that, Hopper grabs Flik by the neck and starts to strangle him, but a real bird comes along, grabs Hopper (and presumably eats him).



  • Reviewed November 14, 1998 / Posted on November 25, 1998

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