As if two animated films about ants – one good (A Bug’s Life) and one bad (Antz) – weren’t enough, the fine folks at Warner Brothers decided to give us another. The Ant Bully, though short and well voiced, is nowhere near as important or influential as it tries to make itself seem and it feels more unnecessary than anything else.
I was never one of those destructive little degenerates growing up who found pleasure in burning various insects with a magnifying glass and the light of the sun. Nor was I the type of person to engage in the bullying of those smaller than me (but that’s probably because I was a very small kid). The Ant Bully tells the story of little Lucas Nickle, a kid victimized by a large bully and his gang of cohorts. Since Lucas is too small to take the bully on, he resorts to terrorizing an ant colony in his front lawn as a sort of therapeutic release. He squirts the mound with a squirt gun, sprays it with a hose and even stomps on it, leaving the ants to scramble for safer quarters.
Tired of the constant destruction and rebuilding, the colony seeks assistance from their wizard Zoc (you read that right – an “ant wizard”) to create a spell to help ward off this human pest. After a few failed attempts, Zoc finally brews up a spell that shrinks Lucas down to their size. They then drag him into their colony to put him on trial for various destructive crimes (pouring “yellow rain” on the colony is one of them) and give him an appropriate punishment – he must live as an ant until he learns his lesson.
Prior to the shrinkage however, Lucas was swindled into signing a contract to fumigate the lawn by a shady exterminator. When he shows up a few days later to spray his toxic liquids, Lucas and the colony must join forces with the other insects (even the ones they have fought against in the past) to take the exterminator on so the future of their colonies are ensured.
We are often watching the ants as they panic and flee yet we never have to worry about the colony losing any of its members. Every ant somehow survives these atrocities, whether Lucas causes them prior to his size changing experience or by other insects looking for a good meal, so any kind of sympathy or sadness (or even freights) the film tries to muster from us fails immediately since there is never any real danger. Sure, it’s a kid movie but for a film with so much conflict, you’d think there would be a casualty or two.
All the patriotism that lies in the The Ant Bully gives it a feel of a useless propaganda film aimed at youngsters. It has that sort of “see it my way or else” message going on for it even though it’s never actually forceful about it. There is also an odd “hail to the king” – Bruce Campbell reference (he does actually provide a voice for a pivotal character) that comes out of nowhere and quickly returns there. It’s sure to soar above the children’s heads in the audience, and maybe even the casual cinemagoer too, you can’t help but wonder why its there in the first place since its only destined to fail.