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"The Ant Bully" Is No Antigone

New to DVD from Warner Home Video, the CGI-Animated film “The Ant Bully” tells a tale that we’re all too familiar with. Heavy-Handed at times, what could have been an enjoyable movie becomes just another “CGI talking insect” movie.

From Academy Award nominated filmmaker John A. Davis (“Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius”) and producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman (“The Polar Express”), “The Ant Bully” tells the story about a 10-year-old boy who embarks on a remarkable journey. New in town, friendless and tormented by a neighborhood bully, young Lucas Nickle has been taking out his frustration on the innocent ant hill in his yard. But one day the ants retaliate. Using a magic potion, they shrink Lucas down to ant size and sentence him to live like an ant in their colony. In this strange new world Lucas will learn important lessons about friendship, get a whole new perspective on life and ultimately find the courage to stand up for himself.

Sounds pretty heartwarming, doesn’t it? Well, it’s more heavy-handed than anything. It’s actually not too bad of a movie, but certainly not as enjoyable as I was hoping for. There are some great performances to be found, but it doesn’t add up in the end. The messages of the movie, and there are plenty, seem way too forced and actually break the pace of the movie. Thankfully the performances and visuals manage to provide some relief, with Nicholas Cage doing an impressive job as an ant wizard and Paul Giamatti hamming it up as an exterminator.

While the animation isn’t up to Pixar standards, they do a good job in bringing the ant world to life. There are some remarkable action sequences that actually do feel epic, with some wild and actually creative design work. And as wild as it can get, it feels like the movie is being held back a bit. It seems to play a bit too safe at times when the movie should really just go all out.

Even after an aggressive ad campaign, the movie falls short of rising above the plague of typical CGI animated films this year with various species in talking roles. Nothing really makes this movie unique. Anything daring or adventurous is usually lost behind a moral or simply held back. It feels like there was a fair amount of control from the higher execs to keep this movie as friendly as possible, giving it just enough edge for a PG-rating, but that’s it. It’s a shame, as this movie was presented with a host of possibilities that it simply can’t meet.

The DVD itself is fairly regular, with a small amount of extras and a standard transfer. The audio and visuals are solid, with a teeny hint of compression. The colors are bright and bold and the audio is loud and crisp. I feel the audio and visuals could have been punched up a bit more in the transfer department, but they work admirably for this release.

As for extras, there’s not much to call home about. They total a selection of deleted scenes, trailers, a virtual ant colony, a typical “making of” featurett, and a few animated shorts featuring characters from the movie. It’s a nice collection, but nothing extensive. The deleted scenes don’t add anything to the movie, and the featurette is pure fluff. The rest of the extras the kids will undoubtedly have fun with.

Overall, a typical DVD release for a poor box-office performer. The movie is a bit of a letdown given the possibilities of the material, and the extras feel merely by-the-books. Kids will no doubt enjoy the movie. It has plenty of interesting visuals and jokes for the kids to giggle at, but there’s not much else to be added. There’s no better label for this movie and DVD release than standard.

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