A Bug’s Life
The second film by Pixar is probably the weakest of the eleven they have so far released … and it’s pretty wonderful. (We’ll have to wait and see about Cars 2  and Monsters, Inc. 2 . I’m suspicious of sequels, but look at the Toy Story saga, which just kept getting better and better.) I would say this is the most standard story Pixar has attempted, with its cast of animals and its story of a misunderstood misfit saving the day at the end. Nothing very original there—though one of the reasons it doesn’t sound so original is that there have been so many movies with the same plot after this one. (In fact, during the same year Antz was released; this was the better ant story.) As always, the look of the movie is wonderful, but it probably looked even better in 1998, when CGI was still in its infancy and this was state of the art. Flik the ant leaves his colony to find heroes who will save them from the marauding grasshoppers who demand tribute every year. What he finds is a third-rate circus troupe who can’t even keep an audience of flies interested. The best parts: the ants building a fake bird out of leaves, and a storm at the end. All through the movie the insects handle water like it’s Jell-O, because of the surface tension. When the rains come, it comes in great messy globules. I liked that. There’s a lot of great jokes about insects, like the waiter who carried in a tray of dung and asks “Who ordered the pupu platter?” One thing I’d have liked to have seen, but of course would be way too much for children, has to do with insect sex. Never mind that all ants except the Queen and the drones are sexless (though the Queen and baby drones are shown with wings that Flik doesn’t have). How about the praying mantis and the black widow? In both cases the female eats the male, who doesn’t seem to mind. With the mantis, she eats his head while they’re having sex. Or how about the fact that roaches can live for weeks with no head? I can see some jokes there, with a headless roach having to pantomime to the others. Sick, huh?
The short released with the picture is “Geri’s Game,” about an old man playing chess with himself … and cheating!