Director(s): Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson
Writer(s): Todd Alcott, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Oct 2, 1998 - Wide
Antz, the closing night gala at the 1998 Toronto International Film Festival, is DreamWorks and PDI’s big foray into the computer-animated romantic comedy genre. Wait a second&ldots;“computer-animated romantic comedy genre”? Well, if there isn’t one there should be. Antz is a charming and funny film, which takes you in completely and makes you forget that you’re watching a bunch of animated pixels.
Antz is the story of Z-4195 (Woody Allen), a worker ant who figures there has to be a better life. Z’s seeing a therapist who considers it a breakthrough when his patient says he feels insignificant. After all, in a colony of a billion, Z is pretty insignificant.
Things change one night when Z bumps into Princess Bala (Sharon Stone) who’s slumming it with the workers at the local bar. His humor and individuality attract Bala but she realizes the social system and her arranged engagement to General Mandible (Gene Hackman) will not allow this encounter to go past one dance.
Z’s not about to give up though and convinces his burly soldier ant friend, Weaver (Sylvester Stallone), to let him trade places so that he can see Bala at a military parade. What Z doesn’t realize is that the parade is leading up to a surprise attack on a nearby termite colony. When he somehow ends up back at the colony as a hero, Z and Bala embark on an adventure that will change their lives and the colony.
Antz is a story that works on many levels. Children will laugh at the funny physical antics, while the adults will also be laughing at the biting social commentary. The animation is simply fantastic. At the press conference in Toronto, the directors, Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson, stated they were glad Antz was being released before Disney/Pixar’s A Bug’s Life so that the film would be viewed on its own merits and not compared to the second feature from the Toy Story people. Well, the Pixar film has a lot to live up to as this film not only has technically amazing animation, but also characters you really feel for.
The voice casting is impressive. How many live action films could feature Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, Danny Glover, Anne Bancroft, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, and Jennifer Lopez all under one roof? And the performances are very effective. Woody’s Z is funny, engaging, and lovable. Sharon Stone’s Princess Bala is strong-willed and sexy. Gene Hackman is cruel and crazed as General Mandible and Sylvester Stallone, a hugely physical presence just using his voice here, gives a humorous and tender performance as Z’s loyal friend, Weaver.
The film clocks in at only 77 minutes, but its strengths as a comedy, adventure, and romance sweep you along and have you leaving the theater satisfied — and in search of an ant farm.