Monday, February 19, 2024

Review: DreamWorks "ANTZ" Can Still Dance

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 11 of 2024 (No. 1955) by Leroy Douresseaux

Antz (1998)
Running time:  83 minutes (1 hour, 23 minutes)
MPAA – PG for mild language and menacing action
DIRECTORS:  Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson
WRITERS:  Todd Alcott and Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz
PRODUCERS:  Brad Lewis, Kenneth Nakada, Aron Warner, and Patty Wooton
EDITOR:  Stan Webb
COMPOSERS:  Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell


Starring:  (voices):  Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Anne Bancroft, Danny Glover, Jennifer Lopez, Paul Mazursky, Grant Shaud, John Mahoney, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtain, and Christopher Walken

Antz is a 1998 computer-animated adventure comedy film from directors Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson.  It was produced by DreamWorks Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, and Pacific Data Images and released by DreamWorks Pictures.  Antz was also DreamWorks Animation's debut film.  The movie focuses on a neurotic ant who bucks the system of his ant colony in order to pursue an ant princess, which sends them both on a perilous journey.

Antz opens in an ant colony, the home of a race of anthropomorphic ants (walk and talk like humans).  The focus is on Z (Woody Allen), an anxious and neurotic worker ant who chafes at the state of conformity in the colony. While at the local bar one night, Z has a chance encounter with the Queen Ant's daughter, Princess Bala (Sharon Stone), and he falls in love with her.  Z doesn't know that Bala is struggling with her suffocating royal life, although her mother, the Queen Aunt (Anne Bancroft), is the ruler of the colony.  Bala also has misgivings about her planned marriage to General Mandible (Gene Hackman), the cunning and arrogant leader of the colony's ant military.

Z wants to see more of Bala, but as a worker ant, he can't get near her.  He convinces Corporal Weaver (Sylvester Stallone), a soldier ant, to switch places with him.  This causes a series of events that finds Z and Princess Bala on a perilous journey outside the colony.  Meanwhile, General Mandible uses this turn of events to serve his own plans.

I am about to watch DreamWorks Animation's most recent release, Orion and the Dark, which was animated by the French production company, Mikros Animation.  So I decided that it was time to finish my review of DreamWorks' first animated feature film, Antz.

Early in Antz, I was not impressed by the CGI-animation.  It looks stiff and not imaginative, but as the film progresses, especially once the story leaves the colony, Antz begins to show some visual inventiveness.  The film's technical prowess improves as the story demands more complicated and involved action set pieces.

I like the voice cast, which I would call stellar; nine members of Antz's voice cast have won or been nominated for an Oscar – some several times.  However, I'm not that crazy about Woody Allen as the lead character, Z.  It's not that he doesn't do a good job; he does, but Allen is playing a character type that is familiar from his own films, such Hollywood Ending (2002) and Scoop (2006).  At times, Woody doing Woody doesn't really serve this film well.  As much as I like Sharon Stone, I can think of other actresses who could have given a better performance as Princess Bala.  I can say, however, that Gene Hackman is convincingly menacing as General Mandible.

So I'm glad that I finally watched Antz.  2023 was the 25th anniversary of its initial wide theatrical release (specifically October 2, 1998).  It is not as good as even recent DreamWorks Animation productions like The Bad Guys and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.  Still, Antz is what kicked off a line of fine animated feature films.

6 of 10
★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, February 15, 2024

1999 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Special Effects” (Ken Bielenberg, Philippe Gluckman, John Bell, and Kendal Cronkhite

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