When it comes to animated movies, sometimes the concept for them is better than the execution that it's given. I should know as I've seen many animated movies that had funny concepts and the right potential for working and yet they never come close to what they were given. There's plenty of examples that come to mind and "The Ant Bully" is certainly one of them. This film really has such a clever idea behind it and it certainly has the cast and crew that could make it great, but it unfortunately collapses due to some fatal flaws that ended up making the film seem mediocre. I really thought this film was a disappointment.
In a Las Vegas suburb, a boy named Lucas (Zach Tyler Eisen) has been regularly bullied by some kids due to his size and is repeatedly neglected by his family. Frustrated by this, he decided to torment some ants in his backyard constantly by either kicking it or flooding it with a hose. With the ants angry over the destruction and desperate for survival, they turn to the wizard of the colony Zoc (Nicholas Cage) who creates a shrinking potion that will shrink down Lucas, who is known to the ants as "The Destroyer". One night Zoc sneaks into the house, shrinks Lucas, and takes him into the colony to be put on trial. The queen (Meryl Streep) feels that Lucas can change and decides to sentence him to become one with the colony and learn what it means to be an ant with Zoc's girlfriend, Hova (Julia Roberts) volunteering to look after Lucas. From there, Lucas means to know how to become an ant with the help of Hova and her friends, Kreela (Regina King) and Fugax (Bruce Campbell), and also has to save the colony before the arrival of the exterminator (Paul Giamatti).
As I said at the beginning of the review, there really is a lot of potential to be found in this film. The film is directed by John A. Davis who also directed "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" which I did enjoy, produced by Tom Hanks, and even boasts a fantastic cast. I also found enjoyment in the premise with that being what if ants get tired of humans constantly harassing them and decide to fight back. It's such a clever idea and I've always had an interest in animated films focusing on incents. However, the film crumbles apart and doesn't work like it should with the story being one of them. Overall, it's not extremely complicated and just feels like it's going through the motions. There is one great sequence in the film where Lucas, Hova, Kreela, and Fugax venture into the house looking for jelly beans and I liked seeing how a normal suburban house looked from an ants point of view. It was a fun sequence. However, the other sequences just seemed unimpressive and lacked any identity. Most of the comedy in this film didn't really make me laugh. It didn't make me groan or roll my eyes, but it certainly didn't make me laugh although there was one joke involving the exterminator's music choice that did get a laugh out of me. I also thought the film really couldn't pick a concrete message. At first, it seemed to be not to pick on people smaller than you and then it turned into a message about society and working together. I really don't know what the film was trying to say. As far as the animation goes, it's definitely the highlight of the film. The computer animation does look very nicely defined and rendered and it did stand out amongst other animated movies of 2006. I also liked the sets and scale of the anthill. Even the ants' character designs are very unique and I liked how they were designed although the human designs did seem a little awkward and rubbery. They could've been a little better designed. As far as the characters go, I didn't mind most of them. I did like most of the ants. Hova definitely was the standout with Julia Roberts delivering the sweetness to her which was needed for the character and even Kreela and Fugax were fun and had their moments as well even if I thought the romance that happened between them did feel very forced and unearned. I have mixed feelings on Zoc though. I did like him at the beginning of the film with him having a light side to him despite being very concentrated in his work though after he meets Lucas, he turns into a cold character and is mostly grouchy for the rest of the film until near the end when he quickly warms up to Lucas after Hova scolds him. It didn't really feel natural and just felt forced. Then we have Lucas who unfortunately is my biggest problem with the film. To put it lightly, I hated him. The character starts off so unlikeable and selfish that by the time we're supposed to turn around and like him by the end of the film, it was too late. He mostly complains throughout the film and he very quickly annoyed me. If you can't get the audience to like the protagonist of your film, then it's pretty much doomed. I attribute the problem I have with him mostly on his writing and not the performance of Zach Tyler Eisen. I know he's a very good voice actor and has done excellent voice work having voiced Aang in the excellent Nickelodeon series "Avatar: The Last Airbender". I'll give him credit for trying to make this character work, but there he was unsavable due to the terrible writing of him. Honestly, the film would've been better if they got rid of Lucas entirely. It should've just been about ants trying to stop an exterminator from killing them while fighting the people who are calling to get rid of them. It would've been so much better. I also thought the exterminator character was just too over the top and not very threatening. I mean, he has a cigar hanging out of his mouth throughout the film which made him seem like a generic villain. He just didn't impress me.
And I can say the same thing for "The Ant Bully". It didn't impress me. While it does have some pretty good animation, the story didn't have much under the surface despite its potential, and the characters mostly collapsed due to a very unlikeable protagonist. I can't say this is a terrible animated movie, but it's not a very good one. There are other animated ant films out there that I would recommend over this. In the end, this film is just minuscule compared to the competition.