A Bug's Life-A Nice Change of Pace
Often, big-budget Hollywood animated films are full of messages that many parents, if they had the time or inclination, would probably not want their children watching. Usually these films are loaded with messages of conformity and blind obedience to authority. (In the case of Monsters Inc. for example, the concept and central theme is about how fun it is to work in a factory.)
A Bug's Life is a very welcomed change of pace and Pixar is to be congratulated for producing a fine film that is mostly lacking the reoccurring message of conformity.
A Bug's Life centers on bully grasshoppers pushing around a colony of ants who are forced to give up part of their crop in a sort of protection money set up. One brilliant inventor ant named Flik is given the task of raising an army to fight off the bully's and he sets out to see if he can recruit the needed warriors. Unfortunately, he mistakes a group of circus bugs and thus sets up a series of comedic episodes. However, Flik's inventive nature helps solve many of the tough situations that he and the ant colony face. This is just a great script, with great messages, especially when contrasted against some of the other big budget Hollywood offerings, which are fine if you don't want your child to be a free-thinking, inventive individual. If that sort of “thing” doesn't concern you then any of Hollywood's major offerings, including, or perhaps excluding, A Bug's Life will be fine.
I sincerely wish that all of director/producer John Lasseter's films held as fine a core message as A Bug's Life, but some of his other works, such as The Incredibles and Monsters Inc. have more troubling messages, depending on your perspective of course. Still Lasseter must be given great credit for the consistent body of work that he has produced.
The quality of the animation in A Bug's Life is fantastic, especially by 1998 standards and is a must have for those with a high-def set-up and small children. Hopefully among the first titles to be released on HD-DVD will be A Bug's Life, which will look absolutely stunning in high-definition.
Every aspect of A Bug's Life is quality and entertaining. The voice-acting is, for the most part, passable. Dave Foley does a great job as Flik and Kevin Spacey is fantastic as the evil grasshopper imaginatively named Hopper. However, many of the other casting choices are a bit more painful, Phyllis Diller and David Hyde-Pierce, well, we could all do without that. Unfortunately, studio executives feel as though they must absolutely pack a big-budget animated Hollywood films with as many recognizable names as possible. In reality 2 or 3 well-known names will get the job done and confirm for the audience that they are indeed seeing a “real” movie. Would it really be too painful to throw a few talented no-names a break every now and then every now and then?
Small issues aside, A Bug's Life has great animation with a unusually positive message for younger viewers and is definitely worth a rental as some of the bonus features are fun as well. When A Bug's Life comes out on next-gen DVD this is a must buy as the film will certainly pop in high-definition.
Story A (A straight forward story that is entertaining and has great messages for kids, if only Pixar would be more consistent on this point we would all benefit.)
Acting B (A mixture of good voice acting and bad at times makes the acting in A Bug's Life a bit inconsistent, but the acting is solid overall.)
Visuals A (A Bug's Life is loaded down with some fine animation and will be a real treat for anyone who has a good home theater system.)
Originality/Innovation A (While not a perfect film, A Bug's Life is refreshing and a safe pick for parents who are concerned about conformist messages in other big-budget Hollywood films.)
Enjoyability Grade A
Home Theater/HD Factor A (This is a must have as soon as it is available in high-def.)
Overall Grade A (A special nod should be given to the “budget to screen” aspect of A Bug's Life as the film cost a mere $40-$45 million to produce and surpassed the $300 million dollar mark. One thing is for certain, Pixar knows how to make a chunk of cash.)