Cage Match

This two-star movie features an all-star cast.

The Ant Bully
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The Ant Bully

Release year: 2006 Posted September 7, 2014

“That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”

Arthur H. Hoggett (Babe)

Congratulations to The Ant Bully are in order for being the only animated feature film so far to take full advantage of Nic Cage’s vocal emotional range. Apparently it’s not easy, something which the animated misses Astro Boy and The Croods attest to. The above-average direction of The Ant Bully encourages Cage to be Cage and the movie’s demented world provides an ideal environment for him to go gonzo.

It seems like Cage’s ant avatar must have been animated to match the surely crazy gestures and facial expressions he was making in the recording booth. His voice is unrestrained, with the manic highs and depressed lows that didn’t work in fare like the completely insane Deadfall but that are perfect in a kids’ film. It baffles me that this kind of Cage was missing from Astro Boy, a movie where he essentially plays a sicker version of Dr. Frankenstein.

The Ant Bully is about a bullied kid named Lucas who, like the bullies who learn their behavior from adults, in turn takes out his anger on the large ant colony occupying his front yard. Not content to be his victim, the colony decides to teach him a lesson by having their resident ant wizard Zoc (Cage) create a potion that will shrink Lucas down to their size.

Some films take their realities very seriously, only to cop out at the end with a deus ex machina or a similar contrived, reality-undermining event. Others build a fantasy world free from the restraints of the real world, but as if to head off complaints from the pedantic nerds who go online to ask why Darth Vader would have built the Death Star with an vulnerable bullseye for Luke to fire a torpedo into, spend an inordinate amount of time justifying their departures from reality.

In contrast, The Ant Bully is a film where a wizard ant plays a huge role in the plot, yet there is never any attempt to explain the accepted presence of a wizard in the ant colony. It’s essentially magical realism, where all the ants’ struggles are based in reality except: one ant is a wizard and the wizard used a potion to shrink a human down to ant size.

Eventually, Lucas learns from his experiences as an ant to embrace teamwork, stand up for himself, and appropriately channel his anger. The plot climaxes when he proves himself to Cage’s Zoc and together they defeat the sadist exterminator Lucas hired before being antified. Zoc uses ant magic to restore Lucas to human size, who then defeats his own bullies and drops name-brand jelly beans down to his ant friends.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t recommend anybody actually watch The Ant Bully, despite the almost absurdly fantastic voice cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, Regina King, Lily Tomlin, Cheri Oteri, Bruce Campbell, and Ricardo Montalbán in his final cinematic appearance. It seems like it would be good for its intended purpose of keeping children occupied, but despite being improbably good at using Nicolas Cage’s vocal talent, is a mediocre film.

Movie?
Mediocre at best
Nic Cage’s acting?
Surprisingly good
Did his performance make the movie worse?
Definitely not