**** (out of five)


Directed by John A. Davis in a major step forward from his work on that screechy Jimmy Neutron, The Ant Bully is a clever synthesis of engaging children's adventure and grown-up entertainment.

Based on the John Nickle book, the movie follows the odyssey of a kid named Lucas, who's reduced to ant size in order to learn about the damage he's unthinkingly caused to the insect society beneath his feet. Of course, Lucas doesn't think of himself as a villain; he's just taking out his own frustrations at being bullied. But the ants see things a little differently.

The animators¹ savvy understanding of perspective makes for a visually splendid feature, with zippy satires of Star Wars, Godzilla movies and possibly Starship Troopers tucked into the action for good measure.

There's also an undeniable streak of post-9/11 awareness in Davis' screenplay, which pauses to question the black-and-white concept of faceless, "barbaric" enemies, and the unquestioning acceptance of religion,

among other things.

That's a pretty big load for a kid's movie, so if you¹d rather ignore the subtext and just focus on the action, that's OK, too; the movie's full of engaging action and smart humour, with a great voice cast featuring Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Paul Giamatti, the wonderful Bruce Campbell and an almost unrecognizable Julia Roberts.

Parents with DVDs of Antz and A Bug's Life in their living rooms are probably asking themselves whether the world really needs another computer-generated insect movie. Turns out the answer is yes— as long as

that movie is this one.