A boy beset by bullies turns bully himself, going after the ants in his family’s back yard. But the ants shrink him down to their size and he learns something about ants, about empathy, about himself, and about how to beat a bully without becoming one himself.
This Aesop-like fable is brought to life with cheery good humor — and some potty jokes — both of which will be a hit with school-age kids. And there are some nice lessons about teamwork and empathy to keep the adults happy.
As his parents go away for the weekend, leaving him with his alien-fearing grandmother, ten-year-old Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler Eisen) is feeling humiliated and unhappy. The neighborhood bully gave him an atomic wedgie and everyone laughed at him. He thinks it will make him feel strong and powerful if he destroys the ants. But ant wizard Zoc (Nicolas Cage in a full-blooded and vivid performance) creates a potion which, poured in Lucas’ ear, shrinks him down to ant-size. He is brought before the ant Queen (a warm and wise but suitably regal Meryl Streep), who orders him to learn to live as an ant. Zoc’s sympathetic girlfriend Hova (Julia Roberts, maternal, if a little colorless) befriends Lucas, and he also gets some help from Fugax (a very funny Bruce Campbell) and Kreela (the wonderfully husky-voiced Regina King) in retrieving some treats for the ants. But before he was shrunk, Lucas signed a contract for an exterminator (this summer’s all-purpose animated film bad guy here and in Over the Hedge). Can he save his new friends? Can he save himself?
Parents should know that this movie has some schoolyard language and crude humor (bare tush, potty jokes, inexplicit reference to potion via suppository). There is some peril and tension and mild action-style violence.
Families who see this movie should talk about why it seems that taking your unhappiness out on others will help you feel better, and about why it doesn’t. How do we learn to be empathetic? What do you think about the queen’s reasoning? What made Lucas agree to sign the exterminator’s contract? Families may want to learn more about ants, too.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other animated bug movies like Antz, A Bug’s Life, and one of the very first animated features, Hoppity Goes To Town. And they will enjoy the live-action Honey I Shrunk the Kids. They might like to take a look at the book. Families who want to know more about the movie can read my interview with the writer/director here.