'A Bug's Life': Queen of the hill Review: The much-anticipated second movie from Pixar Animation Studios lives up to expectations.

November 25, 1998|By Chris Kridler | Chris Kridler,SUN STAFF

The studio executives go marching two by two out of their lTC anthills, carrying two of everything: two volcano movies, two Wyatt Earp movies, two asteroid movies, two computer-animated ant movies.

But not all of the insects in the Hollywood collective are created equal. Sometimes, one ant raises itself up on its own six legs and comes up with something really special. Such is "A Bug's Life," the second ant movie of the year and the second, much-anticipated film from Pixar Animation Studios and director John Lasseter.

Pixar was responsible for "Toy Story," the delightful, computer-animated romp of 1995 set in the world of one boy's toys. "A Bug's Life" doesn't quite attain the joyful perfection of that movie -- an ant can never be as expressive as Woody the cowboy or Buzz Lightyear -- but it's a deliciously fun film filled with action for the kids and goodies for the grown-ups.

Dave Foley ("NewsRadio") provides the voice for misfit Flik, whose wacky inventions mystify the rest of his ant colony. He just wants to make things easier for his friends, including the queen (Phyllis Diller), Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and a cute little squirt of an ant named Dot (Hayden Panettiere). They are all victims of a food extortion scheme run by a gang of grasshoppers, hilariously led by the sarcastic and merciless Hopper (Kevin Spacey, who alone is worth the trip).

Flik hits upon the idea of getting big, bad bugs to come fight for the colony, so he sets out for the "city," just one of many beautifully realized set pieces -- a conglomeration of boxes and junk, with little yellow taxi-bugs zooming up and down, that looks for all the world like New York.

Here, he meets the characters that really lift "A Bug's Life" above its rival, "Antz." It's a troupe of bugs from P.T. Flea's second-rate circus, who range from a grouchy ladybug (Denis Leary) to a fat caterpillar with a German accent named Heimlich (Joe Ranft) to a walking stick (David Hyde Pierce of "Frasier") to Tuck & Roll, a pair of Hungarian pillbugs who don't speak English. Not that bugs speak English in real life anyway, but Tuck & Roll's incomprehension of what everyone else is saying is a scream. (So is their audience; as one fly says: "I only got 24 hours to live, and I ain't gonna waste it here!")

Confident they can really "knock 'em dead," the circus bugs gladly return to the colony with Flik, thinking they've finally got a good gig. Will they stay to save the day? Can Flik's brain compete with Hopper's brawn? Finding out is half the fun. The other half is the film's gorgeous animation and whimsical humor. (The best part of the movie for adults will be the credits, when a series of "outtakes," featuring the insect "actors," are shown. Spacey is a stitch.)

The previous entry in the insect sweepstakes, "Antz," was likable enough, but it went in one antenna and out the other. "A Bug's Life" has more character, less blood, and enough enchantment to satisfy any arthropod.

'A Bug's Life'

Starring voiced by Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Directed by John Lasseter

Released by Walt Disney

Rated G

Running time 94 minutes

Sun score *** 1/2

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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