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The Ant Bully
Review written by: Alex Sandell

The Ant Bully is a hideous wart on the already ugly face of summer 2006.  It's Chicken Little bad.  It's Valiant bad.  I'm a nearly obsessive fan of animation, but even I have my limits.  Outside of the mind-blowing 3-D presentation at the Imax, this movie is painful to watch. 

Released only a week after the exceptionally fun Monster House, The Ant Bully is, fortunately, easy to avoid.  If Monster House is too scary for your kids, Doc Hollywood Cars is still playing just about everywhere.  If your rugrats aren't satisfied with either of those, Barnyard opens in a week (horrible CG animated movies are becoming Hollywood's version of the potato-chip -- they can't just make one).  The Ant Bully is so humorless and so cookie-cutter, taking your children could be classified as child abuse.

The formulaic plot is simple to the point of retardation. A friendless kid gets bullied for a second, and he bullies ants in return. The ants get pissed and a wizard ant shrinks the ant bully.  Once shrunk, the ant bully has to become an ant before he can grow to normal size again.  Somehow he gets ant goggles (how he gets them is never explained) and has to fight an exterminator he hired while regular size.  His ant goggles don't really do anything, outside of ... er ... his ant goggles are lame.

The CG animation is technically sufficient, but has no artistic flair whatsoever (the purple wasp-ish looking things, aside).  It looks like something you'd see for free on Nickelodeon.  It's no surprise the dude behind Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius directs the picture.  But the flashes of inspiration that are found in Neutron are nowhere to be found here.  The Ant Bully is as generic as the cereals you find in those big dog-food bags on the bottom shelves of grocery stores. 

If the plot and animation are going to pretty much totally suck (which they pretty much totally do), couldn't there have at least been some intelligent humor thrown into the mix?  Or forget intelligent -- that's asking for too much out of a late summer CG-fest -- how about we settle for something mildly amusing?  Or even some stupid humor to give the kids in the audience a kick?  Is that really so hard?

Apparently so.

The movie was like open-mike night at the local watering hole.  Jokes flowed freely, but they all fell flat.  The sold-out audience laughed about twice.  If this movie were a stand-up comic, it would go home and kill itself.  When leaving the theater I mentioned to my friend that it just wasn't funny.  She gave me a blank stare before saying, "I didn't know it was supposed to be funny.  Were there jokes?"  My niece tugged on my leg and said she didn't think it was funny, "one bit!"

It isn't hard to get a kid to laugh.  You can amuse them for hours by making fart sounds with your armpit.  But The Ant Bully couldn't even reach that level of humor. 

There were poop and butt jokes galore, but the kids in the audience were silent.  The only sound emanating from the adults was the occasional groan of disbelief.  You could almost hear them thinking, "How could it get this bad?  Who comes up with this stuff?  I'm glad it was free!"

The biggest surprise of The Ant Bully was how bland the voice acting was.  With Nicolas Cage, Paul Giamatti, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Lily Tomlin and Bruce Friggin' Campbell, the voices should have overpowered the crappiness of the film.  But even with all that talent, the voice acting is about as impressive as an episode of He-Man.

Movies like The Ant Bully are insults to audiences everywhere.  Whether you're a kid, a teenager or an adult, this movie is doing nothing but trying to separate you from your hard-earned cash, while giving you nothing worthwhile in return.  It's grabbing as much dough as it can during opening weekend and will then fall back in the shadows until the lucrative DVD sales kick in. 

There is that one thing that works with The Ant Bully, and that's the 3-D.  The 3-D is so impressive that, if you can catch a matinee at the Imax, it's almost worth a watch.  If not, it isn't worth watching. 

The 3-D really is pretty incredible.  While suffering from some ghosting (a problem the digitally projected Monster House managed to avoid), it's hard not to get sucked into this world, when the world is coming out of the screen and literally bringing you in.  There's a scene with an ant's point-of-view that is just a blast to see.  The fight against the exterminator is also a blast to watch (from a 3-D perspective.  In 2-D, it would just be another CG action scene.).

As impressive as Imax 3-D is (and The Ant Bully is probably the most impressive 3-D shown at the theater, yet), I have always had problems recommending it to people, due to the dirty glasses they hand out. The pair I got stuck with was full of somebody else's sweat and popcorn grease.  I tried to wipe it clean, but just ended up distorting the cheap plastic the glasses are made out of. 

Monster House's 3-D was just as impressive, and they gave me brand new glasses that were still sealed in the bag.  As an added bonus, Monster House is 10 times the film that The Ant Bully is.  With Monster House already being presented in 3-D at theaters worldwide, there isn't a single reason to recommend The Ant Bully

Agree? Disagree? Considering Hare Krishna? Email Alex!

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