Running Time: 88 minutes.
Rated: Rated G.
One of the features of the animate features of 2006 is the environment with the villain being the pest controller with his barrage of sprays and poisons. In Over the Hedge, he is called in to get rid of the animals who have invaded a suburban garden in search of food, with Bruce Willis voicing a hungry racoon who has upset a hibernating bear and taken all his food, and who now has a week to build up supplies. Children will enjoy the drawing, the action and the slapstick comedy while parents will enjoy the dialogue and the voices.
However, the film that could succeed with both children and adults is The Ant Bully.
Once again, the villain is the pest controller (voiced by Paul Giamatti) who is called in to destroy a front lawn ant hill. Our point of view is that of the ants. They are afraid but try to survive the onslaught.
The title is strange at first. But, once we have identified the Ant Bully, it begins to make sense and it also leads us into the message of the film. It is really a moral fable.
Lucas Nickle (voiced by Zach Tyler) is bullied by the local kids, especially Steve who keeps pointing out that he is bigger than Lucas and can force him to do anything. The trouble is, as we know, that those who are bullied can then take it out by bullying others weaker than themselves. Lukas does this to the ant colony because he is bigger than they are. So, he fires his water pistol at the ant hill and starts kicking it down.
We, the audience, have already met the ants and seen just how diligent they are in collecting the food for the colony. We get to know some of the personalities, especially Zoc (voiced by Nicolas Cage), the ant wizard who is experimenting with spells and potions. One of these is successful in reducing Lucas to the size of an ant. The Ant Queen (voiced by Meryl Streep) sentences Lucas to work with the ants and to learn what it is like to be an ant. Tutor Hova (voiced by Julia Roberts) trains him in the life and the work. Lucas resists at first but then gets a sense of achievement.
Unfortunately, before he became ant-size, he had rung the controller. Now he has to work with the ants (and collaborate with former antagonists, the flies and other insects) to save the colony.
The film was released at the height of the conflict between Israel and Hez-bollah the bombing of Lebanon and northern Israel. One can't help noticing the similarities in this little fable - and its message of tolerance leading to understanding and collaboration.
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.