Magazine article The Spectator

What about the Workers?

Magazine article The Spectator

What about the Workers?

Article excerpt

If you're curious about the spelling, Antz is presumably an attempt to appropriate for the insect world the street cred of gangsta rap, whose practitioners display a strong penchant for our under-utilised 26th letter, as in 'brutherz' and 'muthafuckerz'. Personally, I find the comparison very persuasive: just as I find it hard to distinguish one gangsta rapper from another, so too I find it hard to differentiate between ants; call me a bigot but they all look alike to me. Antz, which is only the second feature film - after Toy Story - to be wholly computer animated, is visually thrilling, with dizzying lurches in perspective and spectacular depth in the endless gloomy tunnels of its subterranean colony, but its computers have been unable to solve the problem of the ants themselves. There's one model for a soldier ant, one for a worker ant and that's about it.

That, of course, is partly the point: an ant colony is a society in which individualism is deeply suppressed. But it presents a basic difficulty in telling the story, one which DreamWorks have decided to solve by stellar voicing: there's a Woody Allen ant, a Sylvester Stallone ant, Sharon Stone and Jennifer Lopez ants, Gene Hackman and Dan Aykroyd ants, and so on, and on. To be honest, aside from Woody and Sly, it doesn't much help matters, serving only to remind us how few signature voices there are these days: Jane Curtin is no Bette Davis, nor Danny Glover Edward G. Robinson.

But Woody and Sly are enough. In their first cinematic encounter since Stallone played a bozo straphanger in Allen's Bananas (1971), Sly and Woody are pals, one a musclebound soldier ant called Weaver, the other a schlemiel of a worker ant called Z. Sly gives an utterly charming performance and, as a bug, Woody is considerably less creepy than he is as a human being. Obsessed for once with the vicissitudes of formication rather than fornication, Woody is not otherwise greatly changed: Antz opens with Z on the couch of the ant colony shrink, recalling the problems of being `the middle child in a family of five million'. `My father was basically a drone and he flew away when I was just a larva,' he whines. But his hour is up, and now it's time to return to working on the colony's massive megatunnel project. `I'm supposed to do everything for the colony?' complains Z. `What about my needs?'

But Z's world is about to change. Princess Bala (Sharon Stone) is bored by her stiff of a fiance, General Mandible (Gene Hackman), and decides to check out the action at the local bar. …

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