A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 302 – A Bug’s Life

A Bug’s Life – December 27th, 2010

It seems that after several days of merry-making and then a snow storm neither Andy nor I were up to the long movie we’d been hoping to watch tonight. Which is a pity, as we’re moving well away from Christmas. But then it also serves to extend the holiday season and I’m all for that. Last year I decided to celebrate until New Year’s was over and it was very nice indeed. So we’ll save the long movie for Wednesday or Thursday and stick to easier movies for now. Things that make us smile and not think too hard.

Perhaps we should have watched this closer to when we watched Antz. They came out close together and both feature ant colonies in trouble. They both have a socially awkward outcast ant with a thing for the queen ant’s daughter. And both socially awkward ants have to somehow find a way to save the colony from disaster. I’ve seen this happen in other media as well and it’s kind of amusing. But while the urge to capitalize on the vampire and werewolf market is understandable in YA lit, where did the ant fascination come from in two studios at the same time? I was in college at the time, so I can’t say I had the time to be following what was going on in children’s entertainment. Was there a big bug push for a while there? I have no idea. When you think about it, while bugs are fascinating and all, they’re not terribly cuddly and it takes effort to make them cute. And yet both Dreamworks and Pixar made the attempt.

In this movie the socially awkward lead is Flik, voiced by Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall fame. He’s just a worker ant, but he has all sorts of plans and ideas about how to make things better, faster, more efficient, easier, etc. He’s also accident-prone and maybe one out of ten of his ideas pan out at all. Usually, of course, they end in disaster. His colony is also in trouble, as they’ve been suckered into a protection scheme by a group of grasshoppers led by the sociopathic Hopper, played by Kevin Spacey with a casual cruelty that I honestly find a little unusual in a children’s movie (usually villains are over-the-top nasty and caricatures of evil whereas Hopper is nonchalant about it all, which feels more sinister). The grasshoppers arrive every year two weeks before the rains come and demand a tithe of food. The ants hand over their summer/fall harvest and then scramble for enough to feed themselves for the winter. This year Flik messes it all up and the food is lost, leaving the colony racing to find more food fast and Flik sent off ostensibly to find help. He’s actually been shoved out of the way by Princess Atta to keep him from messing anything else up.

In true cartoon fashion, Flik finds a group he believes can help, but it turns out they’re circus performers, not the warriors he assumed them to be. And so begins the attempt to make a plan to save the colony with tricks instead of brute force. It ends up being sort of complicated, actually, which is a criticism I have of the plot. Flik brings the circus bugs to the colony, the colony is overjoyed and welcomes them! The circus bugs freak out when they realize they’re expected to fight, but Flik convinces them to stay! The colony finds out they’re circus performers and sends them packing. Then they save the younger princess, Dot, and the colony welcomes them back! They put their plans in motion, the grasshoppers arrive, everything goes to hell and the ant equivalent of a troop of Daisy Girl Scouts (led by Dot and Flik) save the day. It has so many ups and downs it’s like a particularly nausea-inducing roller coaster. I like vast swaths of the movie and I like a lot of the performances. I love the circus bugs and how they add a lot of variety to the cast and visuals. But the whole movie is “OH NO!” followed by “YAY!” and then immediately after there’s another “OH NO!”

As I said, I do enjoy a lot about this movie. The performances are fantastic, with the aforementioned Spacey and Foley doing great jobs with the leads. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is fun as the often exasperated Princess Atta and then there’s Phyllis Diller as her mother. The circus bugs, however, are really the ones I adore. Madeline Kahn, Bonnie Hunt, David Hyde Pierce, Denis Leary? They’re all fantastic. I would have loved to have the movie be more about them than the beleaguered ant colony. It’s a perfectly nice little movie, but it’s uneven and that’s a pity. More circus bugs would have been just the thing.

December 27, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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