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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 11/26/1998, B: reas , A: reas ,

A Bug's Life

Whereas Antz finds some of its edgy inspiration in Kafka by way of Woody Allen, A Bug's Life is mired comfortably in the pastel mediocrity of Gumby. Made by the same people behind the tauter and more entertaining Toy Story, Life re-creates the treacly, sunlit world of a colony of Pez-colored, four-limbed ants whose workers' paradise is besieged by the ravages of a gang of freeloading grasshoppers. As in Antz, it's the non-regimented misfit who proves the hero. Bland Flik (voiced by Dave Foley), whose labor-saving inventions invariably backfire, seeks respect when he volunteers to journey beyond the colony to enlist some warrior insects to combat their foe. He returns instead with a company of flyspecked carnies who think they are hired to put on a show.

Shades of The Seven Samurai and The Three Amigos. Unfortunately, the film matches the panache of those two classics only when it sheds its G-rated timidity and spreads its wings a little. The carnival sequence shares some of the funky humor of the bar scene in Star Wars, but the carnival performers -- a venomless Black Widow, a Lady Bug uptight about his masculinity, a tiresome Praying Mantis magician -- have little bite. The less wholesome bugs have a lot more sting -- Hopper, the Grasshopper chieftain, is suavely articulated by Kevin Spacey. And the houseflies end up with the best line -- "Who ordered the pupu platter?" At the Cheri, the Fresh Pond, and the Chestnut Hill and in the suburbs.

-- Peter Keough