As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport.

-- King Lear

Lucas is a pretty normal growing kid: Put-upon, picked-on ... and, in this computer-generated animation version of the children's book The Ant Bully, pixilated. Lucas (voiced by Zach Tyler) is a classic story-tale kid -- young enough to be treated like he's little (and called 'Peanut' -- blech) yet old enough to have big problems ... namely, the pack of bullies who hound, harass and wedgie him. Lashing out, Lucas unleashes his anger on the front-yard anthill, which, as the camera zooms in, is a megapolis of talking, industrious individuals who speak in hushed tones about the disasters and atrocities perpetrated by the capricious behemoth they only know as "Peanut, the destroyer."

For the residents of the colony -- including magician Zoc (voiced by Nicolas Cage), his partner Hova (Julia Roberts), bluff scout Fugax (Bruce Campbell) and hearty forager ant Kreela (Regina King) -- Lucas's brief fits of pique are slaughterous disasters, floods and furies sent by a cruel universe. Zoc, though, has a plan: He'll use his magic to shrink Peanut down to their size ... and then something like justice will be done.

Watching director John A. Davis pop from the macro to the micro in The Ant Bully is but one of the film's many pleasures: Small events become terrifying viewed up close, ant apocalypses but small events in the scope of human affairs. But the biggest pleasure isn't that visual sense of play, the star-studded voice cast (a casual count shows six Oscar nominees -- and three winners -- among the actors), or the high-gloss, undoubtedly expensive computer animation that nonetheless manages to be artful above and beyond the gleam of money spent. The biggest pleasure in The Ant Bully is its adherence to a simple, plain-spoken and iron-strong storyline -- something too many kids' film abandon in favor of a dizzying, tiresome frenzy of in-jokes, throw-away gags for adults and clumsily tangled plot lines.
categories Reviews, Cinematical