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Monday, August 6, 2012

Pixargust: A Bug's Life (1998)

After Toy Story was released, it really took the world by surprise. It was fun, charming, and had a sophistication to it. So a lot of curiosity was out to see just what Pixar would do next. Turns out the next film they were working on was about insects. Coincidentally, another 3D animated film was released with it featured talking insects, but I'm not going to dwell on that just yet. Anywho, the newest Pixar film was called A Bugs Life and as expected from Pixar, it did very well when it was first released. It got good marks from critics and grossed over $360 million worldwide. But no one really was talking about it like they were Toy Story. I mean I saw and liked it when I was little, but it didn't really make as big an impact as Toy Story did. Even to this day, I rarely ever hear anyone talk about it. Does this mean it's bad? Not necessarily, it's still a good movie and all. So why is it that this movie gets overlooked so much? Let's get our magnifying glasses out to really look at A Bug's Life.

Okay, well the story is abut an ant colony where it reverses the Aesop fable of The Ants and the Grasshopper where a gang of grasshoppers demand food from a colony of ants. The colony has a quirky inventor named Flick (Dave Foley) that unfortunately causes more trouble than he intends. Meanwhile we have Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who is about to be queen but fears the colony doesn't like her out of inexperience as a leader and Dot (a young Hayden Panettiere) who can't fly yet and forms a friendship with Flick because of his uniqueness. A mishap happens when Flick accidentally causes the grasshopper's food to fall in a stream. Now the ants are screwed. The leader of the grasshoppers, Hopper (Kevin Spacey), blames it on Atta instead of the queen (Phyllis Diller), order that their usual offering be doubled, and say that they'll be back at the end of autumn. Flick then gets an idea about leaving Ant Island to find bigger bugs to fend off Hopper's gang. The colony agrees to this because with Flick gone, they won't have to worry about any potential mishaps. The bugs he does find are actually a group of circus performers that recently got fired from screwing up a dangerous stunt and inflaming their flea boss (John Ratzenberger) in the process. This includes two Hungarian pillbugs, a black widow spader named Rosie (Bonnie Hunt) and her rhino beetle Dim (Brad Garrett), Slim a stick insect (David Hyde Pierce), Francis a ladybird (Dennis Leary), a hungry caterpillar named Heimlich (Joe Ranft), a praying mantis named Manny (Jonathan Harris) and a moth named Gypsy (Madeline Kahn). They think Flick is a talent scout and go with him not knowing what they're in for. They manage to fend off a bird and get the audience they deserve. Flick then gets the idea of building a fake bird to scare off the grasshoppers. It's after they finish that Flick is exposed and forced to leave with the circus bugs. The grasshoppers arrive after the land becomes barren and when they find out there isn't enough food for them, they immediately take over and plan to kill off the queen. Flick returns with the circus troupe and manages to save the colony and fend off the grasshoppers forever.

Pixar planned on A Bug's Life being more visual than Toy Story was. And in many respects, it is. Like the previous film, it creates a world foreign to us because we can't experience it first hand. It's also beautifully textured, like the shots of the forests and green leaves that puts the audience in a diminutive point of view. It's a world where raindrops are like hydrogen bombs and a single grain can provide food for a lot of ants. The animation quality has really improved since Toy Story. The special effects and lighting specifically are especially wonderful.

But it's not without problems. The characters for one are sort of a big thing for me. They're not bad but they don't feel fleshed out enough. Flick and Atta's relationship also feels a little forced to me. I get the sense they like each other, but it's not really developed enough. The circus bugs, though a good lot, don't really have distinct personalities either, unlike Toy Story where the side characters were interesting and better fleshed out. The only circus bugs that do have distinct characters are Francis, Heimlich, and Slim and they do get good lines now and then. Then again, there's so many insects in the film that it is kind of hard to keep track of them all.

After the retraining orders, she grew kind of fond of him.

The only character I found myself invested in was Hopper. God, he's awesome! He just has a really neat design and I thought he had the character to back it up. He's a pretty vile and threatening villain with some brains too. I think he's interesting because he knows that the ants outnumber him and can revolt by using numbers, so he uses intimidation and brute force to scare the ants into giving him food keeping them in check. That was a creative idea to me. That and Kevin Spacey did a tremendous job with voicing the character.

At best, A Bug's Life is just okay. It's not terrible, but it's somewhere close to the bottom of the list because it really doesn't have that much of the sophistication and heart that other Pixar films do. It doesn't really have the creativity that Toy Story had and the story does get a little bit complicated, but there's still a likability and charm to it. You do grow to like some of the characters, though not all of them since there's a lot to keep track of. Overall, it's not a bad rent but there's always a better Pixar film out there. A few good characters as well as a few creative scenarios make it worth a watch. Take it for what it's worth.

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