The Ant Bully
Go to the ant, thou bully; consider her ways, and be wise! That, in a nutshell, is the lesson of The Ant Bully, a moral fable about a boy who is picked on by other children, and who vents his frustrations by attacking an anthill—until the day comes when the ants who live there strike back by sneaking into his house and shrinking him down to their size, to make him live as one of them. The screenplay, adapted by director John A. Davis from a children's book by John Nickle, is as obvious and direct as they come. But the animation is a pure delight, especially if you happen to enjoy looking at the world through a microscope.
As with last week's Monster House, so here: the story concerns a boy, in this case named Lucas (Zach Tyler Eisen), who has a fantastic adventure without leaving home, all while his parents are away on some sort of trip. Instead of a babysitter, Lucas has a teenaged older sister (Allison Mack) and a kooky grandmother (Lily Tomlin) to look after him, but the former is too busy gabbing with friends on her cell phone to pay him much attention, and the latter is a little too weird to be of any help; she is particularly obsessed with UFOs.
The ants who abduct Lucas live in a colony in the front yard of his house, and they are able to shrink him down to their size with a potion prepared by Zoc, a wizard whose voice is provided by Nicolas Cage at his most earnest. At times his performance is so out of touch with that of his co-stars that it takes you out of the movie; instead of responding to Zoc as a character, you may find yourself pondering the fact that the voices in an animated film are usually recorded separately, and you may find yourself wondering what strange contortions Cage was putting his face and body through in the recording booth.
Anyway, the ants take the potion into Lucas's house, in a marvelous sequence that shows the floor, the stairs, and the bedroom from their point of view. And then, when Lucas wakes up and discovers that he is now so small that he could walk right through his underpants (yup, he's naked, but the naughty bits are tastefully hidden from our view), we follow him as he slides, out of control, down the folds of his bedsheet and into a bag of chips, and ultimately into the hands of the ants themselves, who take him to their colony.
There, he finds that many of the ants are ready and eager to exact revenge for the way he stepped on them or flooded their colony with his water gun. (Zoc agrees with one ant's suggestion that they eat Lucas, which brings to mind how Cage once ate a live cockroach in Vampire's Kiss. One wonders, what if the cockroaches wanted revenge against him?) But then a couple of female ants intervene. The queen, who appears from behind a pair of butterfly wings like some sort of tribal deity (her ethereal voice is provided by Meryl Streep, and vaguely reminiscent of her turn as the Blue Fairy in A.I. Artificial Intelligence), decrees that Lucas must live among the ants and learn their ways; and Zoc's girlfriend Hova (Julia Roberts) volunteers to look after Lucas as he reluctantly becomes one of them.