A Bug's Life (1998)

Directed by John Lasseter & Andrew Stanton
Written by Don McEnery, Bob Shaw & Andrew Stanton based on a story by John Lasseter, Joe Ranft & Andrew Stanton
Starring Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Denis Leary, Phyllis Diller

My Advice: Don't Miss It.

For time immemorial, the ants on a particular island have had to harvest enough food not only for themselves, but for the evil gang of grasshoppers that demands their "protection" fund.  Enter Flik (Foley), a bumbling inventive genius who accidentally causes the ant colony a huge setback in their harvest.  He gets the idea that he should go find other, bigger insects who can defend the colony from the grasshoppers.  Instead of finding warrior bugs, he finds a troupe of out of work circus performer bugs, and through a mutual misunderstanding, they go together to defend the colony.

Comparisons are sure to be drawn between this and the earlier computer-animated bug film, Antz, so let's get the primary one done first: the former had a great deal of adult humor to the point where it was almost geared more toward an older audience.  This film, however, is strictly at the child's level--but not to its detriment.  Antz, as well, had more mature-minded humor and a theme behind it--"Think for yourself, schmuck."  Bug's Life's theme of size not being important when looking at impact on the world is less blatant.  Both are fine films, but Bug's Life goes over the top not only with its startlingly good background animation but moreso with its easily identifiable characters and the great voices that play them.  What's amazing is that most of the voices are unrecognizable without foreknowledge.

Dave Foley's Flik and Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Princess are well and good, but the best performances lie elsewhere, like with Kevin Spacey's Hopper, who is perfectly malicious as the leader of the enemy.  Then there's the circus bugs, which are hilarious.  The standouts are  Jonathan Harris as Manny the mystic Mantis (complete with "The pain! The pain!"); David Hyde Pierce as a morose walking stick who is tired of playing, well, a stick; Denis Leary is the most dead-on vocal casting of the year as a male ladybug named Francis trying to get in touch with his feminine side; writer Joe Ranft is the insatiably hungry German catepillar named Heimlich, whose cries of "Schnell!  Schnell!" in times of danger are ridiculously funny; and lastly I was surprised to learn that Whose Line is it Anyway? vet Michael McShane voiced the two very silly acrobatic bugs named Tuck and Roll who don't speak a lick of English.  Excellent vocal casting the whole way round.

All in all, an excellent and enjoyable outing from Disney and Pixar which shows at least in the computer-animated department, they know how to deliver the goods.  And for the record, the "bloopers" at the end are just as clever as you've been told.

Also, as a side note, I believe this is the last time we will get any of the late Roddy McDowall on screen, in his cameo as the voice of Mr. Soil.  We'll definitely miss him.

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