Bemoaning his lot in life, a lowly worker ant becomes an unwitting revolutionary.
While Disney's similarly-themed A Bug's Life, released within a few months of this, took the upper hand in light, child-friendly entertainment, visually Antz was more compelling and, strangely, more adult. For Antz, a dark tale destined to whiz right over the head of the average four-year-old, is simply breathtaking to look at, its seamless bug's-eye view of the world easily compensating for any mild inconsistencies in the storyline.
Having delivered an opening shot and title sequence among the year's best, the action hones straight in on Z-4195, a worker ant living a blue-collar existence among a colony of millions, who is none too happy with his lot in life (cue hilarious sequence in which our hero relates his problems to his shrink with all the neurotic schtick his human counterpart can muster). Possible escape comes in the form of the lovely Princess Bala, with whom he becomes smitten after an impromptu dance at a bar, only for a string of mishaps to occur in his attempts to impress her: "Z" becomes a war hero, a revolutionary, and finally kidnaps Bala, stranding the pair in the outside world. Meanwhile, it becomes increasingly clear that Bala's fiancé, General Mandible, is one untrustworthy ant.
This is not your average cute cartoon romp - there are no original song-and-dance numbers (just some fabulous musical sequences), little in the way of knockabout comedy, and some scenes (in particular a termite/ant battle curiously reminiscent of Starship Troopers) which might prove too intense for tots. That said, Antz delivers handsomely in many departments; its voice cast, with the exception of Stone's thanklessly starchy royal, is uniformly excellent (especially Allen, Stallone as his best pal Weaver the soldier ant and Christopher Walken as Mandible's flying sidekick Cutter), and the script, one or two slow patches aside, is a winner. But it's the animation that wins out here, from the fleshy, lifelike contours of the principal players to the individuality of even the smallest background ant. In fact, it's so well done that only Z and Bala's outdoor adventure, complete with human intervention and other members of the insect family (check out Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin as a delightful wasp couple), serves to remind the audience just how microscopic the characters really are.
It may lack the novelty and broad humour of Toy Story, but Antz still gives its rival a tough act to follow.