When you're as small as an ant, the world is big - and adventure is bigger! That's what young Lucas discovers
after he aims his water pistol at some hapless ants. They retaliate with a secret potion that shrinks "the
Destroyer" to their size... and turns an anthill into a mountain of thrills, action and laughs! Julia Roberts, Nicolas
Cage, Meryl Streep and Paul Giamatti head the voice cast of this rollicking, warm-hearted family treat.
Ant Bully is not an original, and that is for sure. One cannot help comparing the Ant Bully theme with those of the likes of Antz, and it's a Bug's Life. Replace the kid with grasshoppers, and viola Antz. Replace the kid with a bunch of circus bugs, and you have It's a Bugs Life. The lack of originality does not harm this film, as it is well told, has an excellent pace, and is visually captivating.
The Ant Bully was released as part of a loose package of a video game released July 24, 2006, and a film released July 28, 2006 to theaters. The plot and action of both follow very closely with one another. At the time, neither garnered major accolades as game critics dismissing it as shallow game play, and the film turned out to be a big disappointment at the box office for Warner, only garnering $54 million dollars worldwide on a budget of $50 million.
Ant Bully is based on the children's book "The Ant Bully" authored and illustrated by John Nickle. The concept is very promising, and the execution of the concept is pretty well done. Voiced by actors Nicholas Cage, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Allison Mack and Paul Giamatti, you are always kept tuned into the action, and the theme of the movie is revealed repetitively throughout.
The story is about a 10-year-old boy named Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler Eisen), who has no friends, and is the target for the local bully and his gang. His parents are leaving for a honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, so they are too busy to attend to his problems. His sister is distracted by her cellular phone, and grandmother (Mommo) is obsessed with UFOs and aliens. Lucas is constantly being beaten up by the obese yet intimidating neighborhood bully. Because Lucas cannot fight back, he takes out his anger on an anthill in his front yard; He kicks it, stomps it, squirts it with his water gun, floods it with a hose and once urinated on it. This terrifies the ants, who call him Peanut the Destroyer. One ant, a wizard named Zoc (Nicolas Cage) being a hopeful and adventurous type, is trying to solve this dilemma. He tries to devise a potion that he believes will solve all their problems. Zoc finally manages to create the potion, just as the anthill is nearly destroyed by Lucas's latest attack on the anthill with the garden hose. The council members give the order to let Zoc use his potion. Late that night, Zoc and a small troop of ants steal into Lucas's house and pour the potion into his ear. Lucas wakes up and discovers that he is now as tiny as an ant. He falls off the bed and lands on a potato chip. Zoc and his aides kidnap Lucas and rush back to the colony. The boy is thrown down the hole in the anthill into a world of giant caves, caterpillars, and ants with spinners. Lucas is then brought in front of the Ant Mother, who judges and sentences Lucas to become a ant, and a productive member of the ant colony or he cannot return home. Thus begins Lucas adventure to becoming an ant.
Ant Bully comes as a direct digital to digital transfer, framed in a 1:85:1 aspect ratio, 1080p/VC-1 encode, and delivers an extremely sophisticated, polished and detailed production to the screen. The source is pristine and completely free of any video related noise. Blacks are inky and deep; colors are extremely well rendered without being oversaturated. Contrast is excellent, and this video sports some of the best shadow delineation that I have ever seen in an animation feature. The image is bright, punchy, extremely dynamic, full of depth, free of chroma noise and rock solid. It is much more sophisticated animation than my previously reviewed "Open Season", which had static non moving backgrounds set to a highly detailed foreground. To give a hyper realistic quality to the film, the backgrounds were complete with moving objects such as the wind stirring the grass and trees, highly detailed ants moving around the central characters, the movement of the hair on Lucas, his sister, mother and father. The detailed extended well past the foreground and into the backgrounds giving the whole picture a three dimensional depth that stretched forever into the visuals. Micro-detail is also excellent as you can see the reflections of each character nicely rendered on smooth shiny surfaces such as glasses, broken glass and other reflective objects. The amount of micro-detail outlining the ant's bodies, granny's face with forehead wrinkles, the individual waving blades of grass, the cloth pattern on Lucas's under ware after he shrinks, and the bed sheets is astonishing to the eye. Ant Bully definitely belongs among the giants of animation such as Cars, Ratatouille, but is in another level above such movies as The Wild and Open Season. The more I watched this video, the more impressed I became at the excellent visuals before my eyes.
Ant Bully is presented in 640kbps Dolby digital, and I found it to be a rather conservative if not effective mix. Much like in Open Season, there was an opportunity to present the ambient sounds of a busy forest (or grass to the humans), and present a nice supporting ambience to each scene, it just does not happen. So what we often get is busy visuals with nothing audio to support it. That is not to say this is not a good mix, it is a strong mix. Stereo separation is excellent across the front soundstage. John Debney's very strong score is well recorded, if not subtlety buried within the mix. Strings have a wonderful sheen to them, sounding open and airy. Upper and lower brass is very strong in some cases, and the score occasionally washes into the surrounds during impact moments. When Lucas attacks the ant hill, the sound field comes alive with the sound of water moving through the channels, and screaming, running ants. Another very active scene involves the ant colony being attacked by wasps. The sound field is filled with buzzing insects, screaming ants, music, effects, and dialog, all presented out without crowding each other out. Bass through the LFE is occasionally very powerful, as the LFE is used pretty conservatively in this mix. What is sorely lacking in this mix is an effective use of the surrounds. They are largely silent throughout the movie, and only kick in during impact moments. Dialog is well recorded and integrated into each scene. No intelligibility problems here. While this mix was good, it is not great, but services this film nicely if not conservatively.
As an extra, I got a hold of the HD DVD version of this title so I could compare the soundtrack of the bluray against the TrueHD soundtrack of the HD DVD release. After level matching the two soundtracks, I sat back and listen to some key scenes that are the most active from a sound perspective. As expected the trueHD encode sounded cleaner, more open, and the instruments within the orchestra were better presented across the sound stage. In comparison the Dolby Digital encode sounded crowded and congested, less clean, rolled off in the highs, and discrete effects are much better rendered in Dolby TrueHD. It is a shame that Warner did not decide to include the same mix on both formats.
The Ant Bully' hits Blu-ray with the same extras as the standard-def DVD release. First there is a collection of eight really entertaining shorts designed especially for kids. Also included are eleven minutes of deleted scenes in various levels of completion, which fill in blank spots in the story line quite nicely. The extra I enjoyed the most was the sixteen-minute featurette called It Takes a Colony. A little beetle hosts it, and it takes us through the animation process, interviews John Davis and the main effects crew, and shows us some of the talent working on the dialog portion of the movie.
Lastly there is a 1:85:1 widescreen trailer of Ant Bully. All extras are in standard definition video.
The Ant Bully is one of those movies that is technically strong, but lacking in originality. In spite of that, I was throughly entertained and my attention was further bolstered by very strong technical values that completely permeated this movie. I found this movie fun, its message strong(if not overdone), and its weakness are subtle when you look at the complete package. I think the kids will really enjoy this, but there is something for adults as well. I would suggest you rent this movie first, and decide to buy after you view it.