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Reviewed by Alexei Kurupatin

"There are many professions that encourage individuality and personal expression.
Being an ant isn't one of them."

From Dreamworks SKG and PDI Animation. Directed by Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson. Rated PG

With the voices of:
Z: Woody Allen
Chip: Dan Aykroyd
Queen: Anne Bancroft
Muffy: Jane Curtin
Barbatus: Danny Glover
Mandible: Gene Hackman
Azteca: Jennifer Lopez
Bala: Sharon Stone
Cutter: Christopher Walken
Weaver: Sylvester Stallone

I expect to hear news of plummeting temperatures in hell any time now. Plus, a large porcine creature just flew past my office window.

Yes, folks...that most rare of rare things has happened. Hollywood - you know, the town that even liberals will admit is filled with liberals - has created the most unabashedly libertarian movie I've seen since "The Fountainhead". And, it wasn't even done by some fringe outfit that had to beg, borrow and steal funding. No, "Antz" was created by that most celebrated of Hollywood big studios, Dreamworks SKG...and, if you'll notice the list of voices above, you'll see some pretty noted liberals.

Sheesh, understatement of the year.

And on top of all's a cartoon! Every kid in America is going to want to see it!

What is the scenario that people always return to when they want to analogize the collective, the socialist state? Ants! And what could be a better tool to teach individualism than actually portraying the life of the ant?

"The Truman Show", out earlier this year, had some strong libertarian themes in it. But it was subtle. You wouldn't see them right off unless you were hyper-sensitive to paternalism. I went back a second time just for the pleasure of picking out all the nice details, without having to bother following the plot. But "Antz" has not a grain of subtlety in it. Workers dig "for the good of the collective". Individuals are insignificant, meaningless. States go to war to expand their power base. There's a place for every ant, and every ant had darned well better stay in his place. And the Supermen -- er, excuse me, Superants -- are going to lead the colony to a new era of glory.

I loved it.

Z-4195 (voice of Woody Allen) is a worker ant who dreams of something more. He doesn't feel like he's cut out for the ho-hum existence of moving dirt all day long. He doesn't feel...fulfilled. Plus, he has an inferiority complex; as he describes himself: "I've never been able to move more than ten times my own body weight" and "It's hard being the middle child of five million."

Z seems to be making progress towards accepting his place in life -- with help from his psychiatrist; really, if Woody Allen has one talent in life, it's making fun of himself -- when he chances to meet Princess Bala (played by Sharon Stone), slumming it in the local bar. It's love at first sight for the worker, though not for the princess. Desperate to see her again, he convinces his buddy Weaver - Sylvester Stallone, as a soldier ant... what else? - to trade places with him for a day. Predictably, this unwise move get's poor Z sent into battle, to fight the dreaded termite army.

Like many of the better modern animated movies, "Antz" works on different levels for children and adults. Children will love it for the story and the cuteness and the wonderful sense of being small in a giant's world. Adults will love it for its wholehearted celebration of the individual, and for its many sly witticisms. ("Instead of attacking the termites, why don't we try subverting them with campaign contributions?")

Until recently, Disney seemed to have an unbreakable lock on animated features; however, a number of other studios are trying to challenge that dominance. Any way you want to look at it, "Antz" is definitely a movie to shake Disney's status quo. (And if the Dreamworks production "Prince of Egypt", out in December, turns out to be as good as the previews are, the Big Mouse is going to have some real competition.)

Parents, take your kids. There's a few words of what today is considered mild vulgarity, and a termite/ant version of the battle of Omaha beach. Or, in other words, nothing they won't see on Saturday morning cartoons. If you don't have kids, go don't need to be ashamed.

But go.

© Alexei Kurupatin 1998.

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04 October, 1998