Fantasy elements

talking insects


[Princess Bala]

Life in the ant colony is getting to Z [pronounced Zee ; voiced by Woody Allen] -- he feels insignificant, because he is insignificant. Then one night in a bar, he meets Princess Bala [Sharon Stone], slumming it, and his world is changed. He swaps places with Weaver [Sylvester Stallone], a Warrior ant friend, to get to see the Princess again, but instead gets sent off to a termite war, mistakenly becomes a war hero, accidentally kidnaps the Princess, and sets off to find Insectopia. But the evil General Mandible [Gene Hackman] is trying to take over the colony, needs the Princess for his plans, and sends Colonel Cutter [Christopher Walken] to bring her back. Z returns to save her, and the colony.

[surface tension] This is brilliant stuff. The Silicon Graphics animation is glorious, with ranks upon ranks of ants scurrying around, and the individual ants having real personalities (partly cribbed from those of the actors providing the voices -- the Stallone ant in particular is a superb caricature -- especially the Rocky look after being beaten up). And the effects are there not for their own sake, but to drive the plot, to provide the legions of ants needed to build the tunnels and to fight the termites. The scripting is deliciously witty, in a Woody Allen, ant-oriented way: You don't know what hard work is. How would you like to give birth once every ten second for the rest of your life? Insectopia is particularly well done, because we see it as heaven from the ant's perspective, and hell from our own human one.

soldier ants

The choice of songs is simply inspired. The sight of a thousand ants line-dancing to Guantanamera will stay with me for some time. [I already have a bizarre resonance for this particular song: it was used for the chant of There's Only One Ajax Ramsgate during the surreal Scottish TV series Playing for Real , about Real Falkirk, a Subbuteo team.] Then there's the sight of a million ants chanting All We Are Saying, Is Give Zee a Chance ...

Because this is animation, it might be mistaken for a children's film; it is not. Young children will probably be frightened, especially during the termite war scenes. Older children used to action films might well be bored: the humour is wit and surreality, not slapstick. It is just wonderfully funny, and brilliantly animated. I now want to see it again.


Rating: 2

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 29 December 1998