The story revolves around an ant colony where the ageing Queen (voice: Phillis Diller) is considering retirement and hoping her near-neurotic daughter, Princess Atta (Julia Loius-Dreyfus), will prove a worthy successor. The ant colony lives in terror since the end of the harvesting season signifies the arrival of Hopper (Kevin Spacey), the leader of a gang of grasshoppers, who comes to extort their share of the foodgrains.
One of the hardworking ants is Flik, an ant so full of ideas that he is soon considered the renegade of the colony. In one such inventive frenzy he manages to drop into a lake the entire stock of foodgrains kept aside for the goons.
The grasshoppers get hopping mad and demand double their usual share. Flik decides enough is enough and so goes a-hunting for an army of the meanest bugs around. What he finally gets are bumbling members of a flea circus who can perform death-defying tricks but little else besides.
These include a male ladybug trying to assert his masculinity, a praying mantis who is always meditating on some problem, a rhino beetle, a moth named Gypsy, a stick insect, an overweight caterpillar who soon hopes to be a butterfly, a really friendly black widow spider and two pill bugs.
As comparisons are going to be made between A Bug's Life and Antz, let's skip the debate by simply stating both films are quite different with different lead characters, Woody Allen in Antz, provides the voice for a character who, much like himself, is in perennial doubt.
Flik is an ant seeking acceptance, and the love angle here is a sub-plot in the story.
Spacey sounds pretty menacing as Hopper, particularly in a scene that Hopper kills two grasshoppers who question his judgement. The scene is straight out of a mafia movie set in class Insecta. Though it's an animated character, the scene is chillingly real.
The build-up for the grasshopper gang is pretty good -- they arrive something like a motor cycle gang, in a rash of sound effects.
The screenplay has some interesting gags. For example, when Flik goes to the city to find his warriors, he meets an injured fly begging with a placard next to him saying "Crushed by a kid's bicycle".
But the most interesting and funny bit in A Bug's Life were the credits. It has some behind-the-scenes footage with the animated characters playing the stars. So you have Hopper missing his cue, Princess Atta having to laughing her head off for four takes in a row... And more scenes like that. The result, of course, is that you hardly pay attention to what you are reading after a point.
All said and done, the film works well with the characters in the film retaining their innocence and idealistic views of life. Guess that is what makes a 'kid-friendly' movie as the makers describe it, unlike Antz, where Woody's voice ensures the film sounds like it is aimed at a more mature audience. As the cliché goes, worth a dekko.
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