Antz

By Jeff Vice

Only in an animated film could we have a romantic triangle between Woody Allen, Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman, and still have the situation actually work.

OK, Allen might make the mistake of trying the idea, if he could get Hackman and Stone to appear together in one of his films. But it's highly unlikely that the result would be as enjoyable as "Antz."

This computer-animated comedy is much smarter than you'd be led to believe. In fact, it has a layered story line that features jokes for both adults and children and terrific voice performances — in addition to the already incredible animation.

However, parents should be warned, "Antz" is also startlingly violent and includes a warfare scene that appears to have been ripped from "Starship Troopers" or "Saving Private Ryan" (albeit in animated form). In fact, the scene (as well as another that involves a magnifying glass and a malicious youngster) may frighten young viewers and taints the otherwise enjoyable film, to a certain degree.

Still, the idea of drafting Allen to be the voice of a nebbishy insect is inspired, and he brings a great deal of insecure charm to his role as Z-4195, a worker ant who's grown disillusioned with his life, thanks to the daily grind (which consists largely of digging tunnels).

But he finds a reason to care when he meets and briefly courts Bala (Stone), the beautiful ant princess. Desperate to see her again, he convinces his warrior ant pal Weaver (Sylvester Stallone) to swap places with him.

However, the gambit backfires when he is mistakenly sent to the frontlines for a suicidal battle against the vicious termite enemy. To his surprise, he survives the experience and becomes a sort of folk hero to his fellow insects, showing them they don't have to conform to their assigned societal roles.

In fact, Z's growing stature makes him a threat to Bala's evil fiance, the megalomaniacal General Mandible (Hackman), who schemes to start a new warrior colony with the princess.

Though the script is credited to a trio of newcomers, there are healthy contributions from the cast. For instance, many of Z's lines sound like Allen ad-libs. Fortunately, most of them are very funny and are in keeping with Allen's performing image.

Surprisingly, both Stone and Stallone sound at home performing vocally, while Danny Glover, Christopher Walken and the barely recognizable Dan Aykroyd manage to steal a couple of scenes in much smaller roles.

And despite some questionable lapses in taste and judgment, the dazzlingly three-dimensional animation is a wonder to behold, and it makes the whole thing worthwhile.

"Antz" is rated PG for animated violent warfare, profanity, bug goo and gore, vulgar sight and verbal gags and a brief scene of torture.

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