[Screen It]


(1998) (voices of Woody Allen, Sharon Stone) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Mild Heavy *Moderate Mild
Mild None Mild None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
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Minor None Minor Mild *Moderate

Animated Adventure: A worker ant, hoping to get his colony's beautiful princess to notice him, ends up the unlikely hero as he helps thwart the totalitarian plans of a renegade general.
Z (voice of Woody Allen) is just another worker ant among thousands or even millions in his colony. While the rest of the ants don't seem to mind the daily monotony of their lives, Z hates conformity and believes that there must be something more to his life than this.

Commiserating with his friend and fellow worker, Azteca (voice of Jennifer Lopez), Z continues to toil away under the direction of his foreman (voice of Grant Shaud) while digging a massive tunnel to accommodate the military plans of General Mandible (voice of Gene Hackman), a ruler second only to the colony's Queen (voice of Anne Bancroft).

With the aide of his right-hand man, Colonel Cutter (voice of Christopher Walken), Mandible momentarily puts aside his skewed totalitarian plans for the colony, as he desires to make a preemptive strike on a band of termites poised to attack them. Reluctantly, the Queen agrees, and she later points out that Mandible's leadership qualities prove he'll be an excellent husband for her daughter, Princess Bala (voice of Sharon Stone), to whom he's already betrothed.

While chatting with his best friend Weaver (voice of Sylvester Stallone), an imposing, but sweet natured soldier ant, the night before the military invasion, Z overhears a drunken scout (voice of John Mahoney) telling of a wonderful place called Insectopia, an above ground sanctuary where ants don't have to live a conformist life.

Happily dreaming of such a place, Z is then surprised when a beautiful young ant asks him to dance. The two hit it off, but a barroom brawl causes her to leave just as he learns that she's really Princess Bala who wanted to see how the "other half" lives. Immediately smitten, Z convinces Weaver to switch places with him so that he might be able to see Bala again during a military procession the following day.

He does, but along with Barbatus (voice of Danny Glover), a seasoned solider ant who takes the worker under his wing, Z discovers to his horror that he's heading off to war against the termites. Miraculously the only survivor of the deadly battle, Z suddenly finds himself a hero, much to Mandible's chagrin. A succession of events, however, results in Z and Bala finding themselves thrust into the above ground, outside world.

The Queen then orders Mandible to find her daughter, and while he sends Cutter to do so, he also continues his plan to cleanse the colony of unacceptable drones and other unworthy types. From that point on, and as Z sets out to find Insectopia with a reluctant Bala in tow, they encounter two snobbish, but socially generous wasps, Chip (voice of Dan Aykroyd) and Muffy (voice of Jane Curtin), and must contend with several perilous encounters with humans as well as the General's plans that they hope to thwart.

If they've seen the commercials or otherwise heard about it, it's a good bet they will.
For mild language and menacing action.
  • Whether kids see computer-animated characters as role models is debatable, but here goes.
  • Z is a somewhat neurotic worker ant who hates conformity and eventually breaks the rules and becomes an individual, while showing bravery along the way.
  • BALA is the colony's princess who can't stand the thought of popping out babies every few seconds for the rest of her life and thus also breaks with tradition.
  • MANDIBLE is the general whose totalitarian cleansing plan of those he considers inferior in the colony shows that he's not a good role model.
  • WEAVER plays Z's best friend, a hulking figure of an ant with a soft heart and friendly disposition.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    A marvelously crafted, technologically amazing and downright fun tale, "Antz" is a film that should appeal to adults as much as, and perhaps more than, to their kids. Beating Disney's similar computer-animated "bug" movie, "A Bug's Life," out of the starting gate and into moviegoers' hearts and minds, this film significantly ups the ante in this genre and probably has the Big Mouse a bit worried about the prospects for their pending release due later this fall.

    For anyone ever interested in those flat, glass enclosed ant farms or just what the miniature parade of such insects marching across the ground is up to, then this is the movie for you. Something of a combination of "Metropolis" and "Logan's Run" with elements of the 1950's nuclear paranoia film, "Them!" thrown in, "Antz" is a visual delight with the potential to appeal to generations of moviegoers.

    Okay, so the only relation the latter film has to this one is that it contains ants (actually, really, really big ants). Much like that film that was nominated for best special effects in 1955, however, this one should similarly receive an Oscar nomination for its incredible visuals. While "Toy Story" was an amazing feat in and upon itself for being the first full-length, completely computer- generated feature, this film raises the bar many, many notches.

    Whereas the characters in "Toy Story" had some emotive expressions, the fact that they were toys made of wood or plastic, along with the general technological limitations of the time, prevented Woody and his pals from having what most would consider "real" human facial characteristics. Although the characters here are obviously ants, the range of emotions that appear on their faces is often quite stunning.

    As helmed by supervising animators Raman Hui & Rex Grignon, these new effects are literally amazing and give the characters a "human" dimensionality that "simple" 3-D imaging and other such effects couldn't produce in the past. For better or worse, such realistic effects are definitely the precursor to studios one day replacing high dollar, flesh and blood thespians with their less expensive, computer generated counterparts.

    Beyond the emotive qualities present in the ant characters, the film is an overall visual treat to behold in nearly every way imaginable. From the massive subterranean world in which Z and his fellow workers (or "Soil Relocation Engineers" as he puts it) toil away their lives, to the outside picnic world straight from the set of "Land of the Giants," the film never fails to amaze.

    In particular, the scenes involving a wrecking ball consisting entirely of thousands of ants, a fun dance number with a brief "Pulp Fiction" reference, and an amusement park-like "ride" where Z and Bala find themselves stuck on a human's tennis shoe (and are quickly lifted and lowered hundreds of "ant" feet in the air) are just a few of the moments that are extremely well-done and equally fun to watch.

    Of course, special effects alone can't carry a film, and co-directors Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson and screenwriters Todd Alcott, Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz have made sure the film has a strong story and likeable characters. Written to appeal equally to kids, their parents, and any other adults, the film's potential as a huge box office hit, however, may suffer somewhat from its nebulous target audience.

    While kids will obviously enjoy the computer effects and wild action sequences, the film doesn't have the requisite kid-oriented material (the toys in "Toy Story," the wisecracking sidekicks in Disney and now other studios' animated films) to make this a huge success. Such comments aren't made to fault the film, but merely to point out what may prevent it from being a huge success should that happen.

    Notwithstanding that, and although much of the material will fly right over younger kids' heads, most adults should find the proceedings to their liking. Some of that, however, will depend on your tolerance level regarding actor Woody Allen.

    As the voice of Z, Allen ("Deconstructing Harry," "Manhattan") fills him with those well-known neurotic tendencies for which the actor is best known. Appropriately enough, the film starts with Z on the psychiatrist couch rambling on and on about his multiple neuroses partially stemming from his growing up as the middle child in a family of five million -- all of which wants to make him curl up in the "larvae" position.

    While Allen's mannerisms fit perfectly with Z's characteristics, they strongly dominate the audience's perception of the character (compared to other animated characters whose voices are recognizable, but not with a certain "routine"). While we didn't find that too troublesome, for those who dislike or have grown tired of Allen's schtick, you may have a hard time enjoying the film as much as you should.

    Even though that holds true for Allen, the obvious vocal work of Gene Hackman ("Unforgiven," "Absolute Power") and Sylvester Stallone ("Rocky," "Cliffhanger") is excellent (and who would have thought that of the latter after "Yo, Adrienne!"). As the deranged general, Hackman's voice is easily recognizable, but lends a great deal of authority and subtle nuances to his military ant, while Stallone creates an extremely likeable character (which, out of all the ants, has been "molded" the most to somewhat look like its vocal benefactor).

    The rest of the vocal performances are fine, although some are barely recognizable -- Jennifer Lopez ("Selena," "Out of Sight") as Z's coworker and Dan Aykroyd ("The Blues Brothers," "Ghostbusters") as a snobbish, but friendly wasp (or make that WASP) -- and Sharon Stone's ("Basic Instinct," "Casino") take on Princess Bala could have used a bit more conviction to make that character jump off the screen a bit more.

    Much like "Toy Story" that took a familiar world (of toys) and turned it upside down under a microscope to show what might just occur there, this film does the same with creatures we see all of the time, but never think much about. Although not quite as good as that earlier film in overall enjoyment, this picture has so many fun little moments (along with some impressive big ones and a great, tell-all, zoom out shot that concludes the picture) that make it a film well worth recommending.

    From its amazing special effects, to its strong story and nicely developed characters, "Antz" may have a few slow moments and many kids might be oblivious to much of the material, but those are only minor complaints. Stunning to watch and just about as much fun to experience, "Antz" gets an 8 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the film's content. The PG rating comes from mild language (nothing worse than "crap" or "ass") as well as some peril-filled scenes that may be tense, unsettling, or frightening to your kids (all being dependent on their age, maturity level and tolerance for such scenes).

    Beyond the violence that accompanies such scenes (including a battle sequence where all but Z end up dead), there are some mild references to characters being intoxicated, some minor sexual references, and the obligatory villain with his standard bad attitudes.

    Other than that, however, most of the remaining categories have little or no major objectionable material. Even so, and particularly since many kids will probably want to see this film, you may want to take a closer look at our listings should you question the film's appropriateness for anyone in your home.

  • Weaver and others drink "aphid beer" in an ant bar, and a scout who tells Z of Insectopia appears to be intoxicated.
  • Chip the wasp flies drunk after appearing from a discarded bottle (presumably of liquor).
  • Weaver drinks "aphid beer" from such a dismembered creature's body, something that Z comments on: "I've got a problem drinking from the anus of another creature."
  • After a battle between the termites and the ants, we see bodies of both lying everywhere (no blood or gore), and Z finds the decapitated head of another solider ant (that still manages to talk to him before dying).
  • A sun beam shot from a magnifying glass zaps several ants, one of which disintegrates from the ray.
  • Eating an unidentifiable piece of material, a bug says that it "tastes like crap." Another bug then tastes it and comments that it is "crap."
  • Weaver's face has some red abrasions from where Mandible's men have punched him trying to get him to talk.
  • Mandible has both toward the underlings below him as he plans to eradicate the undesirables and rebuild the colony with a stronger gene pool. To quell a possible worker rebellion, he also lies to them about his plans to make their lives easier.
  • It's possible some may view Z's refusal to conform as having both.
  • Z and Bala have a little of both toward each other at times, but nothing to any extremes.
  • Depending on your child's age and tolerance level of certain material, the following may or may not be suspenseful or frightening to them.
  • A battle scene where the monstrous looking termites come racing down a hill, shooting acid from their heads and fighting the ants may be a bit unsettling or downright frightening to your kids.
  • A perilous and adventurous scene occurs when Z and Bala must flee the beam of sunlight coming from a magnifying glass that's being used to pursue them.
  • Bala suddenly finds herself on the back of a praying mantis that turns its menacing head around toward her (she quickly escapes).
  • Trapped in their new tunnel, the ants are surrounded by a flood and rising water and try to get out before they all drown. Some kids may later be upset when it appears that Z has drowned, but of course he turns out to be okay.
  • Spears: Carried by the soldier ants and used to fight and kill the termites.
  • Phrases: "Geez," "For crying out loud," "Come hell or high water," "Idiot," "What are you bitching about?," "Losers," "Nuts" (crazy), "Let's kick some termite butt," "Creep," "Twerp," "Bite me," "Bagging" (other ants talk about Z "bagging" Bala), "Buzz off," "Who the hell is that?," "Tight ass," "Freak" and "Ungrateful maggot."
  • Some kids may want to try using a magnifying glass on insects (if they haven't already seen this done).
  • None.
  • A few scenes have a mild amount of suspenseful music in them.
  • None.
  • At least 4 damns, 2 hells, 2 craps, 1 ass and 2 uses of "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • Z makes a sarcastic remark to Bala about her being part of his "most erotic fantasies," but says that she can now forget that (after he thinks that she no longer likes him).
  • Other ants comment on Z "bagging" the princess, but the full meaning of that is never explained.
  • None.
  • The Queen briefly worries about Bala being kidnaped.
  • The film offers an interesting take on individualism, conformity, and teamwork. While it shows that people (or ants) should be their own person and not conform to what others think they should do, it also shows that being part of a team is a good thing (that's how the ants survive Mandible's plans to drown them).
  • Using a magnifying glass on ants or other insects.
  • How to treat insects -- kids might not know what to do if they think they're all like Z and the others.
  • Insect on insect violence is hard to rate, but the ant vs. termite battle scene near gives the category a "heavy" rating.
  • A bar bouncer tries to punch Z for being a nonconformist, but the punch lands in Weaver's gut with no effect. Weaver then hits that ant, knocking him into the band, and then punches another bouncer. A brief, but all encompassing barroom brawl then breaks out, with many ants punching and hitting others.
  • The soldier ants fight similarly motivated termites, resulting in many onscreen deaths (nothing too graphic but showing termites biting and/or eating ants, hitting them with acid, or the ants stabbing termites with their spears) and all but Z are dead by the end of the battle.
  • Bala smacks, elbows in the face and then hits Z several times.
  • Bala punches Z again.
  • A sun beam shot from a magnifying glass zaps several ants.
  • A giant fly swatter hits (and presumably kills) Muffy the wasp.
  • One of Mandible's men punches Weaver trying to get him to talk while being interrogated, and the red abrasions on his face show that they've punched him more than once. They also threaten Azteca if he won't talk, and thus he does.
  • Cutter punches another bug, knocking him aside.
  • Cutter knocks down Mandible, who then knocks Z and himself over a ledge and into a deep hole (where Mandible is presumably killed upon impact, and Z must be saved after being knocked unconscious in some water).

  • Reviewed September 30, 1998

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