Antz, contrary to the title, is more about humans than the insects we loathe at picnics. The movie is completely animated, but it's very clear that the protagonist Z is a caricature designed to mimic Woody Allen's performances in his previous films.

In Antz, Z is a self-centred worker ant who doesn't see why he has to conform to what the rest of the colony does and consequently suffers from an identity crisis. He runs into the colony's Princess Bala (Sharon Stone) at a bar and become enamoured with her, so much so that he convinces his best friend, Weaver (Sylvester Stallone), a soldier ant, to switch places so he can see her again. However, the evil General Mandible (Gene Hackman) has other plans for the soldiers, and sends them off to fight the vicious termite army. A stark fight results in the destruction of the termite and ant armies, save for Z who manages to survive after being buried by a dead termite. He returns home a hero, but his iconoclastic views get him into trouble when he ends up kidnapping the Princess Bala in order to search for "inspectopia" a place where one's individuality can reign supreme (among other things). Z's "kidnapping" of Princess Bala doesn't fit well with Mandible's plans, which involve "cleansing" the ant colony of the weak ants and so he dispatches Colonel Cutter (Christopher Walken) to bring back Z. When Cutter carries away Princess Bala, Z gives up self-centredness and goes back to save his love and the colony.

The non-conformist theme is what is coolest about this movie. It's certainly something a lot of children (and adults) should take home. In fact, the movie clearly shows how it easy for a single person to exploit the masses (as General Mandible does) when the individuals are all-too-willing to conform. (At one point in the movie, a speech by Mandible during a worker rebellion convinces all the ants who were shouting "Z! Z! Z" to immediately begin shouting "Mandible! Mandible!" This is all the more ironic as General Mandible lectures about the evils of individualism while illustrating the evils of conformity.)

In terms of the acting, Allen's presence completely dominates the film. Allen's humour really comes off strong in this one as we're no longer forced to rely on his visual presence and have to actually listen to his words. The casting is top-notch and has a lot of great names who don't disappoint. Stallone and Hackman manage to steal some of Allen's thunder. Christopher Walken also provides an interesting performance as the conflicted Colonel Cutter. The end disappoints a bit, particularly as Antz tries to provide both a romantic "alls well that ends well" ending as well as trying to illustrate the importance of the individual within society.

The animation is excellent and painstakingly detailed. It does represent a marked improved from what we saw in Toy Story and also represents a challenge to Disney much the way Anastasia did. It may well be that the big M's domination of the animation frontier in America is slowly coming to an end. Antz captures some of the magic that was found in very early Disney animated movies, such as Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book, updated for the 90s, of course. One of the better movies this year.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||