December 1998
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A Bug's Life

By Jessica Brandt

Once again, Pixar and Disney fail to disappoint with their latest for-kids-and-adults animated feature. A Bug's Life was this year's big mid-week Thanksgiving movie for the companies, and it couldn't have hit the market fast enough.

Not only are the graphics completely stunning, but the casting is brilliant. Animated features must be the hot commodity now in Hollywood, because all the stars turned out to become bugs. Playing the lead ant in the film, Flik, Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall, Newsradio) not only lends his sometimes-stuttering voice, but sometimes even his body features and gestures make it to the screen. Julia Louis Dreyfus shows up as Princess Atta, and brings along all the independence and will we saw in her character on Seinfeld. Kevin Spacey takes a break from playing psychos and scary-dudes to becoming a bug's version of psycho/scary dude, the king grasshopper, Hopper. Richard Kind (Spin City) plays Hopper's overly-talkative and flinching younger brother, Molt, "to a tee." other chacters are David Hyde-Pierce (Fraiser) as a stick bug, Denis Leary as a macho ladybug, Jonathan Harris (The orig. Lost in Space) as a wise praying mantis, and Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) as a humungous rhinocerous beetle named Dim.

As with A Toy Story, the directors (Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter) seemed to have molded the story around the personas of the actors and created animated figures to match what each actor would be like as a bug. Phyllis Diller's Queen Ant gets huge wrinkles, while Denis Leary's ladybug character is tough and crabby. Part of the fun of seeing this film is trying to guess which actor played every little part.

The animation in this picture is also brilliant. In some parts, i forgot I was watching animation and found myself marveling at the excellent camera work. Especially vivid are the scenes with the red and orange bird. I heard many whispers throughout the theater that echoed my sentiments of "It looks so real!" Even though this movie is fun for both kids and adults, you have to come in to it being a little less anilytical than I was, when I noted some obvious size misrepresentation according to the size of an ant (namely, I don't think ants are smaller than dandelion seeds, as was depicted in this film). But I am such a nitpicker, and I hope it doesn't bother you too.

Other than the characters and animation being great, the story also kept my interest. The first half-hour dragged on a bit, foscusing only on the ant hill and the pastel ants, but as Flik ventures away from home to find some "warrior bugs" to protect the ants from Hopper and his gang, things move at a more rapid pace and keep the viewer's interest to the end. The scene of all the non-ant insects acting in the flea circus is fantastic and roll-on-the-floor funny. Seeing what the creators of the film came up with as objects that would make up little bug worlds is also entertaining. Who would have thought that old ice-cube trays made good bleachers for fruit flies? Another detail not spared is the use of dew-drops as drinks as opposed to little tiny cups of water. Not only that, but the mosquitoes order drops of blood from the bar! Once the warrior bugs get back to the anthill, the story still keeps ones' interest, to see how they end up saving "Ant Island" and keeping themselves alive in the process. The ending is not as cut-and-dry ad you might expect from a Disney film. This ain't no Snow White.

Little nuances make this picture one that should be seen over and over again, as you can't catch every joke each time. I vote it as better than Toy Story, and even if I weren't part of the Dave Foley Fan Club, I'd say it was better because it's got more stars, and a better storyline, not to mention it's funnier. When you do go see this picture, and I recomend that you do, don't forget to stay for the closing credits, not only to see who played each bug, but there's a special surprise at the end!


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