Star Review: 4 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
When you have a company like Pixar that has created over 15 hit films it’s not suppressing that one the early films would end up not being overshadowed by the rest (especially if it had no sequels). I distinctively remember seeing Bug’s Life at the cinema when I was a kid and watching it a few times on VHS but when it came to re-watching it again recently it became apparent to me that I’d forgotten most of the plot. There were seen that I remembered and recognised as soon as they appeared on the screen but overall I’d forgotten quite a lot of the scenes and humour and the reason I believe this is because the film has become Pixar’s forgotten gem. Despite it’s amazing cast, production team and recognisable characters the movie is never a topic of discussion among Pixar fan’s when there are bigger giants to talk about such as Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, UP and Toy Story to name a few. Moreover, the film is hardly ever repeated on TV and, because the film came out between Toy Story and Toy Story 2, it’s quite easy to gloss over its existence. Moreover, the film had the unfortunate circumstance of being released at the same time as Woody Allen’s Antz and, despite A Bug’s Life doing commercially better, the casual viewer to blend both films together or mistake one for the other.
The films main protagonists Dot (voiced by a really young Hayden Panettiere), Flik (Dave Foley) and Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).
That said, the fact Bug’s Life is not as well known as other Pixar movies doesn’t make it any less impressive as it has a lot of creativity behind it. The film follows the life on an anthill that every year have to supply a large offering of food to a grasshopper colony in exchange for “protection”. However, during this particular spring, the aspiring inventor ant Flik accidentally drops the ants offering into a nearby river. Angered, the grasshopper leading Hooper gives the ants a second chance to provide them an offering by the fall even though the ants have barely enough time to gather food for themselves. Feeling guilty, Flik sets out on a mission to find a group of bug’s willing enough to help the ants fight back against the grasshoppers and free his ant colony from the grasshoppers tyranny.
As is the case with most Pixar movies, the plot allows the film to delve into various different themes and messages that can reflect with it audience. The grasshoppers represent a fascist dictatorship that uses fear to “keep the ants in line” and preserve order. Hopper acknowledges that the ants out number the grasshoppers and knows that if they were to reply they would destroy the grasshoppers power over them. As a result, the films overall message is that of a socialist dream where the proletariat are able to reply against their rulers and build a society of equality where the ants work hard with each other to provide each other with food. This is a message that is quite deep for a movie and I have to applaud Pixar’s success in portraying it in a way that is easily accessible for children.
The film features a large collection of unique and colourful characters (as can be seen clearly with the circus crew Flik hires to help fight the grasshoppers).
Another reason that makes Bug’s Life a very creative film is its use of 3D animation. Director John Lasseter uses the 3D animation technology available to him at its most finest and full extent to create a wondrous and complex world. He takes simple objects like an empty dog can and a match box to create a world for the bug’s to live in filled with circuses, clubs and bars with strobe lighting that make the layout feel like a great city such as New York. The character designs include various different insects such as caterpillars, lady bugs, spiders, beetles and stick insects to create a unique and colourful set of supporting protagonists. Such of which is then backed up by it’s incredibly large collection of cast members that include Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Phyllis Diller, Richard Kind, Dennis Leary, Joe Ranft, Bonnie Hunt, Brad Garrett, Jonathan Harris, Madeline Kahn, Pixar veteran John Ratzenberger, the late great Roddy McDowall, a really young Hayden Panettiere, the extremely talented David Hyde Pierce and of course the gravitas king Kevin Spacey as villain Hopper.
Kevin Spacey uses his natural gravitas to shine as the villainous dictator Hooper.
The only real complain to have of this movie is that future Pixar movies just kept improving and made A Bug’s Life feel very small in comparison, but this is not a bad thing. Bug’s Life is still a treasured gem in its own right and adds a unique world to Pixar’s vault of hit films. While the film may not be their most know movie, it is definitely not their worst project and just proves how great a creative team Pixar is if a good movie like bug’s life feels small compared to the rest of its filmography.