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Nerdy with glasses and little, Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler) gets bullied a lot by the bigger kid of his neighbourhood, but when he floods an ant colony in his garden because he's bigger than the ants, he gets more than he bargained for. Magically shrunk to their size by a potion created by wizard ant Zoc (Nicolas Cage), the Queen ant (Meryl Streep) sentences him to hard labour in the ant colony, under the mentorship of Hova (Julia Roberts). As part of the ant colony, Lucas faces dangers from wasps and bullfrogs, learning important lessons about friendship and courage. But there is one danger that is too big even for brave ants: the pest exterminator, Stan Beals (Paul Giamatti), who has tricked Lucas into a contract that threatens to wipe out every insect in his family's garden.

Review by Louise Keller:
Honey I Shrunk The Kids meets Antz in The Ant Bully, a colourful, family-friendly animated comedy about using our differences for positive ends. In writer/ director John A. Davis' 2002 film Jimmy Neutron, the young hero has a big brain. Size, or the lack of it, plays a part for The Ant Bully's protagonist, who is intimidated because he is small. 'I'm big and you're small,' the neighbourhood bully tells him, making the ostracised bespectacled youngster with a mop of unruly hair and expressive saucer eyes delight in exerting his superiority over those smaller than him - a colony of ants living on his front lawn. It never helps that his belittled self-image is reinforced at home too: his teenage sister treats him like a nerd and even his parents insist on calling him Peanut.

There's shock and humiliation, when Lucas finds himself naked and shrunken smaller than the ants, in a world where a single blade of grass is a towering skyscraper. Condemned by a sentence to become an ant and find a useful purpose within the Colony, hazards include aggressive multi-coloured flies, being swallowed by a porky frog with a slurping tongue and a manic pest control exterminator (voice of Paul Giamatti) whose gleeful mission is to exterminate. I love the scene when Lucas takes his ant-colleagues into his 'human nest' to collect 'sweet rocks' (jelly beans), cradled by fallen rose-petals as skydiving apparatus to bypass the tiny-traveller prohibitive thick-shag carpet.

It's imaginative and amusing with its engaging characters and nicely crafted animation, even though the ants themselves are visually the least interesting. The voice talents of Nicolas Cage and Julia Roberts ensure there is ant-charisma, while young Zach Tyler Eisen brings energy and verve as Lucas. Uplifting and bright, there's plenty to entertain everyone in this good hearted and funny animation, whose moral, to work together as a team, sends the right message.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The simple pleasures of a bedtime story are filtered through the hands of animators in The Ant Bully, a story with a message about the ugliness of bullying. Aimed at the pre-teen audiences, the film offers some thrills, laughs and a teensy bit of educational information in a package that, while entertaining enough, doesn't reach the exalted heights of The Incredibles or Shrek.

The ants lack the charm that Bugs brought to insect animation, the humans are all visually plain and cinematically drab as well, and the story has more good intentions than gripping elements.

Modest though it is, The Ant Bully has pace and some visual interest, not to mention a superior cast whose voice work lends character to the ants and other bugs, as well as the humans who inhabit little Lucas' world. Lily Tomlin, for example, has the most fun with grandma Mommo, whose false teeth keep falling out mid sentence, making her burble. The rest of the humans have to play it pretty straight, except of course for Paul Giamatti as the evil and foul smelling exterminator, who is not only a threat but a lying conman as well. The association of pest controllers will have something to say about this, but for the rest of us, it's just plain goodies v baddies ... in an anthill.

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(US, 2006)

VOICES: Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Zach Tyler, Regina King, Bruce Campbell, Lily Tomlin

PRODUCER: John A. Davis, Gary Goetzman

DIRECTOR: John A. Davis

SCRIPT: John A. Davis (book by John Nickle)


EDITOR: Jon Price

MUSIC: John Debney


RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Tas: September 7; Vic: September 14; QLD & NT: September 21; NSW, WA, SA: September 28, 2006

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