Starring: Animation film voiced by Nicolas Cage and Paul Giamatti
Director: John A. Davis
ONE of the subjects of several of the animation features this year is the environment, where the villain is the pest controller with his barrage of sprays and poisons.
In Over the Hedge, he was called in to get rid of the animals who had invaded a suburban garden in search of food, with Bruce Willis as the voice of a hungry racoon who had upset a hibernating bear and taken all his food.
Children enjoyed the drawing, the action and the slapstick comedy while parents enjoyed 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 Hezbollah, 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.