Volume 92, Issue 52
Friday, December 4, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Bug flick gets its wings clipped
Gazette file photo
By Anthony Turow
The appeal of A Bug's Life is contagious.
The computer animation is spectacular, surpassing Pixar's previous effort, Toy Story, by leaps and bounds. The characters are colourful and wonderfully imagined visually, in addition to being just plain cute. This should translate into a fine movie, if it wasn't for one small problem.
That problem is Antz, which proved animation doesn't have to be stupid or pander strictly to kids. While comparing A Bug's Life to Antz may be unfair, it is inevitable. Both films are computer animated, released within two months of each other and focus on the colourful inhabitants of ant colonies and the troubles which arise in their microcosm.
Where the two films differ is in the treatment of the material. Antz went for a satirical treatment of the social hierarchy which exists in the colony. It utilized top name stars such as Woody Allen and Gene Hackman to voice the critters, adding marquee value and making it more appealing to those old enough to buy beer.
A Bug's Life is strictly kids' fare. A non-stop parade of slapstick pratfalls and scatological one-liners which are only funny to those who still wear size 6X. The voices aren't nearly as strong as its buggy predecessor.
Instead of Woody Allen, we have Kids in the Hall's Dave Foley as the voice of the bumbling hero, Flik. Nothing against Foley, but Flik's character is a little too sterile to be any fun. He's not plagued by comic neuroses like Allen's Antz character Z, or even amusingly self-righteous like Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear. His main characteristic is a bland tendency to drop, spill, or break things. He's a klutz. And sadly a bore.
The supporting characters are a little more interesting, even if they don't rise above their one-note personalities. The best of the bunch is Denis Leary as a cranky male ladybug, Francis and Kevin Spacey as Hopper, the leader of the evil grasshoppers who threaten the ants' harmonious existence.
Frasier's David Hyde Pierce is also wonderfully droll as the voice of the stick bug, Slim. There are some meaty opportunities for these actors to utilize their comic timing and they do so with confidence, even though their dialogue is run-of-the-mill.
Less impressive is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as the princess ant. She delivers her lines with the charisma of a sleepwalker who's taken one too many doses of Nyquil. Her role is disappointing, considering the wonderful comic chops she displayed week in and week out on Seinfeld.
Considering what A Bug's Life could have been, it's a shame its shortcomings eventually outweigh its merits. It seems director John Lasseter wanted to make a movie which combined satire, adventure and slapstick comedy. While his efforts are noble, the movie ends up a big convoluted mess, which wants to do a little bit of everything but winds up accomplishing nothing.
A Bug's Life is the epitome of style over substance.
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