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Ever felt like a cog in the ever-grinding machine of society? Sure you have! At one time or another, everyone has felt like an insignificant little insect on a dunghill, going through the endless paces of work drudgery for the good of the whole as opposed to the good of the one.

Antz, the computer-animated feature cum marketing campaign and possible franchise fired out of the corporate cannons of über-company DreamWorks, tells the story of one such insignificant little insect. The catch is, he really is an insignificant little insect, a neurotic worker ant named Z and voiced by the king of cinematic neurosis, Woody Allen. Our tiny six-legged protagonist feels unimportant, just another one of the interchangeable tens of thousands of other ants who goes about their daily routine of moving dirt, digging tunnels, and relaxing at the aphid bar for a night of entomological line-dancing.

On one particular evening, he comes across the beautiful Princess Bala (the voice of Sharon Stone) slumming it in the private sector. She too is experiencing an existential crisis, being heir to the breeding throne of her queen mother (Anne Bancroft) and betrothed to a power-mad general (Gene Hackman). She sneaks into the prole bar to see how the other half lives, and steals Z's heart after an impromptu jitterbug. When he decides to impersonate his soldier friend (Sylvester Stallone, giving his best, er, "performance" in years), he sets off a chain reaction of events that involves a fake kidnapping, a plot to destroy the colony, and a trip to "Insectopia", the mystical region that exists outside the anthill.

It's tempting to dismiss Antz as another of one of the sing-along pseudo-Disney affairs one has come to expect from the world of childrens' animated features, but it's a step above the usual Mouseketeer pabulum and it's not just a kid's movie, per se. While there's plenty of goofy antics for the tots to enjoy, the writing is aimed squarely at the adults in the audience. Some of the best bits (the two wasps who exhibit the traits of New Englander WASPs, the extended goofs on celebrity personas) might fly right past the kids, but should delight any savvy grown-ups present. The abundance of movie star power (the voices and personalities of Stallone, Allen, Bancroft, Hackman, Christopher Walken, Jennifer Lopez, and several other A-list celebrities are on loan here) also gives the picture a prestige that lifts it several notches over the middle-of-the-road line, and shows that DreamWorks had enough faith in the project to call in a load of favors from the creme de la créme of Tinseltown.
But here's the real test: does it stand up to Toy Story, the mark that all other animated features must now be measured by? Well, no; the animation is not as good (the computer renderings veer from mildly impressive to downright eerie in that Lincoln-exhibit-from-the-Disneyland-of-yore way),the story isn't nearly as well-developed, and kids probably aren't going to be flocking to toy stores this yuletide season to demand ant toys. There's also the competition of rival computer animators Pixar's own insect opus A Bug's Life, coming soon to a multiplex near you and a fellow ant-imated feature.

Comparisons aside, however, Antz holds its own thanks to some very clever writing and some great swipes at the conformist mindsets of the military and corporate cultures of the modern American landscape. It's no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon with the family and will delight anyone who fantasizes about making a difference in the droning world of the societal hive.


rated PG
1 hour 17 minutes

voices of...
Woody Allen
Sharon Stone
Gene Hackman
Jennifer Lopez
Christopher Walken
Danny Glover
Sylvester Stallone