Movie Review

Ant Bully

MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor and action

Reviewed by: Keith P. Soencksen
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids, Family
Genre:
Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Length:
1 hr. 28 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
July 28, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Warner Brothers
Copyright, Warner Brothers
Copyright, Warner Brothers
Copyright, Warner Brothers
Copyright, Warner Brothers
Copyright, Warner Brothers
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Brothers
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Featuring: Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Lily Tomlin, Cheri Oteri, Alan Cumming, Regina King, Ricardo Montalban, Zach Tyler, Tyler James Williams
Director: John A. Davis
Producer: Keith Alcorn, John A. Davis, William Fay, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Scott Mednick, Thomas Tull
Distributor: Warner Brothers

“The battle for the lawn is on.”

Lucas Nickle is small for his age, and thus, he gets picked on. No surprise there. Those not acquainted with the bullying epidemic in America’s schools will gain a little insight into the problem that plagues untold numbers of kids. Research shows that bullying is not so much caused by a strong-willed child as it is caused by weak-willed, detached, or even abusive parents. Also true is the fact that many victims of bullying actually bully others themselves, in an apparent effort to retain some self-esteem through control. The strong bully the weak, and the weak in turn bully the really weak. So it is with Lucas (Zach Tyler), as he takes out his frustrations on an ant colony in his yard, flooding them with water, and mercilessly stomping on their hill.

Zoc (Nicholas Cage) is a rather determined ant. He’s a self-described “ant wizard,” working on a potion that will save the ants from “The Destroyer” (Lucas). Zoc uses the potion to shrink Lucas to sub-ant size, where they can mold him into a human who’s more sympathetic to the hardships of ant life. Lucas is sentenced to work in the ant colony under the tutelage of Nova (Julia Roberts), and along the way, he learns heart-warming lessons about teamwork and putting others first.

The ultimate enemy is a very rough-around-the-edges exterminator who’s been contracted to treat the boy’s yard. Lucas must find a way to save the colony from the imminent pesticidal doom. There’s nothing unpredictable about this movie, but it is entertaining, and certainly witty, in parts. The story moves fast, and there is plenty of intense action. A swarm of nasty hornets initially threatens the ants, and this part (reminiscent of the grasshoppers attacking the ants in “A Bug’s Life”) plus maybe one or two other parts will likely be scary for children under age 5 or 6.

The PG-rating is due to some crude humor, and although there is more than enough of it, none of it is exceedingly offensive. First, poor Lucas is the victim of a “power wedgie” at the hands of the local bully, who mockingly calls him “Pukus.” There are several poop jokes and even one reference to urine, though again, these are done in a way that makes them bearable. In the final battle with the exterminator, two insects fly up the guy’s pant leg, and well, you can guess where they sting him (implied of course, not shown). There are a few gross parts, as when Lucas ends up inside the stomach of a frog. Again, nothing too hard to take.

But then… there is an aspect of “The Ant Bully” that jumped out at me numerous times that I never quite got comfortable with: Christian symbolism. Now don’t go thinking I’m one of those mystics who thinks every odd occurrence must somehow be symbolic. The first time I heard the word “salvation” in this movie, I dismissed it. Then I heard it again. Soon after, I heard, “Praise the Mother Ant!,” and from then on it was clear: this was no accident—the writers had deliberately made references to Christianity. But, as we would expect from Hollywood, there’s a distinct air of sarcasm and mockery attached. Thankfully, anyone under age 10 will probably miss it altogether.

Early in the film, Zoc is busily experimenting with his potion, which he says will be “the salvation of the colony.” In the process, he raises his hands in the air, loudly calling on the supernatural powers he needs to make his potion work. Now, he certainly wasn’t summoning the God of the Bible, but on the other hand, I think it would be a stretch to call this occultism—this is definitely not Harry Potter. Still, it left me a bit uncomfortable.

The ants and Lucas work together as a team and use the potion to save the colony (as if you couldn’t have guessed). Now, I certainly didn’t expect the movie to come out and say “Salvation is found in no one but Jesus Christ,” but what it did was subtly teach us that we should trust in ourselves and our friends to get by in life. This is a worldly truth that fails to look beyond our earthly life. When we die, ant colonies and magic potions won’t matter one iota. Our eternal salvation is found in Christ alone, and it is Him alone that we are to trust and serve while on earth (John 14:6; Prov 14:12).

The spoof on Christianity was at times not-so-subtle, but honestly, the depth of it didn’t even hit me until a couple hours after the movie ended. The colony had a queen, of course, but above the queen was the “Ant Mother,” who was openly declared to be worthy of praise. There were numerous shouts of “Praise the Ant Mother!” Zoc explained to Lucas that the Ant Mother was “going to return someday to save all the ants.” To top it off, Lucas was led by his ant friends into a cave where a large image of the Ant Mother was prominently displayed, and presumably, worshipped. Idolatry, anyone? Refresh your memory on the 2nd commandment. The Mother Ant was obviously intended to be symbolic of Christ. So what’s the problem? Again, the sarcasm, and the fact that it’s just not taken seriously at all. This isn’t exactly Narnia.

In some ways, the ants seem to be portrayed as a bunch of naive morons for carrying on in their superstition (sound familiar?). Worshipping the Christ of the Bible, expecting his literal return to earth, and not bowing down to images and idols is all very serious business. Make fun of it, if you must Hollywood, but as the bumper sticker says, “If you’re living like there is no hell, you’d better be right!” God will not be mocked (Gal 6:7). Luke 9:26 warns, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

One more example, as long as I’m on the subject: the exterminator’s name is Stan Beals. The name of his pest control company is “Beals-e-bug.” When you hear it pronounced, it’s clear that this is a play on the biblical name “Beelzebub,” another name for Satan (Matt 12:24). Rather odd, and not a little disturbing for a supposed kids’ movie.

Again, younger kids will not pick up on much of this, if any at all. But then why include it? Answer: because adults will. And because some people have such a low view of Christianity that they just can’t pass up any chance to poke fun at it. In my opinion, this very entertaining movie was diminished by its deliberate, casual, jabbing parallels with Christianity. But, I think I know who will have the last laugh.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None


Viewer Comments
Positive
Positive—The movie has its good and bad points. The movie begins with a bully giving someone an “atomic wedgie.” Lucas, the child being bullied then takes his frustrations out on the anthill in his yard. As his parents prepare to go out of town, his mom enquires about his underwear—he snaps at her, yelling, disrespectful, and finally tells her to go away and leave him alone, that he doesn’t need her help. There is a “wizard” ant trying to make a potion, calling upon the elements, air, wind, etc. There is a flirtacious ant who is constantly grabbing or making remarks or innuendos to a female ant. An ant utters some weird word, that I assume to be a swear word in ant language, as he is corrected by a female ant, “Not in front of the little one.”

There is a reference to the potion “saving” them. I find this a perfect opportunity to say that only Jesus can save! Acts 4:12 says 'Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.' As Lucas shrinks in size while lying down in bed, we see an empty pair of underwear in the bed. He falls off the bed into a bag of chips, and as he crawls out, seems to be concealing himself holding a potato chip in front of his privates.

There was one instance where one of the ants was asking Lucas, 'Where do you come from? When were you hatched? Are you a male or a female? How do you tell? She says this as she is peeking around a rock at Lucas, and then she utters “Oh is that how?.” Lucas retorts, “Hey, Stop peeking!.” She tells Lucas to relax, that she won’t eat him. He says Promise? Cross your heart? She crosses her back end, and he replies, I said cross your heart not your butt. She tells another ant that he is a male and that they like to keep their gender traits hidden.

One phrase uttered throughout the movie by many of the characters, “Praise the mother” is very offensive to Christians. We are to worship and praise ONLY the Lord. They are referring to the mother ant. At one point some bugs are inside someone’s pants looking for a place to bite. We see skin and hair which I assume to be the man’s legs as the bugs are crawling up his pantlegs. One bug remarks that this looks like a soft, vulnerable area. The bugs bite him and then crawl out of his pants, while we see him yelling and holding himself. After this, there is a scene where the same man is bending over, and we see that he either needs to pull his pants up or buy bigger ones. I have tried to mention the things I noted that might offend some people.

Now, on to the positive aspects of the movie. If you know anything at all about ants, then you know that they are hard workers. Ants work together to accomplish a task. The movie does a good job of emphasizing this. The most positive aspect in the movie was the emphasis on teamwork and care for one another, and that if ants (or people) will put aside their differences and learn to work together, that their differences when combined to accomplish one goal actually makes the unit as a whole stronger. Romans 12:4-5 says For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

Something that we as Christians are called to do is to help one another. So many times everyone is out for themselves. Philippians 2:3-4 tells us 'Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.'

This movie does a good job in pointing out that such an attitude of self serving and division can accomplish a little; but when we stop to help each other and to lift up our fellow man and work together, MUCH can be accomplished. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

While there were some objections and concerns, overall, this was a cute movie with many opportunities for parents to talk to their children about the value of working together as a team, laying aside differences to accomplish a common goal. Loving one another and working together, helping one another—that honors the Lord.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Melisa Pollock, age 34
Positive—I watched this movie with my 9 y/o son. Overall, we really enjoyed the movie. My son told me, on the way home, he noticed “a lot of bad words, though.” He took notice of the multiple “jerks, stupids,” etc. in the film, but he enjoyed the rest. The visual journey, sound, and story were nearly top notch by today’s high standards. The morality was slightly above average for Hollywierd, and the more offensive attitudes/words helped portray the young boy’s initial struggle with bullies, misplaced anger, and his lack of cooperative attitude. The movie shows him overcome these downfalls through ant-sized experiences.

I noted the (now unusual) portrayal of a nuclear family, parents vacationing together, appearing happyily married, and speaking to the children in loving fashion. The grandmother’s character is entertaining, but seems to walk a line close to mocking dementia or senility. I think the potential impropriety will sail over younger viewers, who will laugh at grandma’s antics.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Mike Rogers, age 35
Neutral
Neutral—The movie was pretty good. The negative comments regarding “praise the mother ant” I found offensive. I also didn’t like the wizard. However, it opened up the door to discuss with my kids and remind them of the different stories in the Bible. It also opened up the opportunity to discuss that Jesus is the only one who can save you. I don’t recommend you see it for just fun, but take the opportunity at the matinee price to teach your children about the Bible and the consequences of our decisions. Or perhaps when it is available on DVD to rent it and be able to share more without disturbing the audience. Bullying is a big problem in school, and it is something that needs to be addressed. We need to arm our kids so they don’t turn to other means.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Grace, age 34
Negative
Negative—I thought “Ant Bully” to be a bit disappointing. I took my 5 year old daughter and 8 year old son to see this movie, because it was part of the Dove Movie Festival. The kids laughed, but I caught several things I disagreed with. First of all, the grandmother is a fanatic over aliens coming, but what caught me was the masonic symbol that was engraved on the headrest of her rocking chair. Thankfully, the kids did not pick up on the mocking of Christianity and other poor comments throughout this movie. This movie is a perfect example of how the enemy uses some cartoons, and other shows, to try to grasp a hold of our children. I’ve read the children’s book and Hollywood added a lot of non-sense to the story to make it a movie.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Michelle, age 33
Negative—I rated this film negatively because of the way it mocks God and Christianity. In the film, there is an “Ant Mother” which they say will come back one day and save all of the ants. (ring a bell?) And there is also a bad guy (beals-a-bug) (sounds like Beelzebub to me) that is supposed to come to destroy. (Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy.) I don’t think that a little kid who watched the movie would pick up on all of the mockery of Christianity, but why let them watch something that mocks Christianity whether they understand or not? The movie was cute or what-not, but I would not tell anyone to go see it.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3
—Angie, age 18
Negative—…there are numberous comments and actions that allude to the Christian faith and are done in a very mocking mannor. There are symbols of the masonic order placed in the movie, and, of course, there is the underlying teaching that “salvation” comes from ourselves and others, as well as magic. This is all done in a “low key” fashion, but it is done. Just because it is done “low key,” and the younger kids may not catch it, is no reason to recommend it. To do so would be the same as recommending a power drink with posion in it to our kids and say, “the dose of poison is so low it probably won’t hurt them.”

The fact of the matter is, our kids are smarter then you think. God tells us to stay away from evil, (and I would think mocking Christ and Christianity is evil). The Bible also tells us to train up our children in the way they should go. Teaching them that as long as it is funny we don’t mind people making fun of our belief is not training them up right. Also, why would we want to give your money… and recommend others to give our money, to an organization (movie Industry), That blantantly mocks our belief?

I deal with kids every day in my ministry who have become so complacent to spiritual things. Movies like this and parent attitudes toward movies like this is a large reason why. We are teaching our children that we don’t really believe that our faith is a matter of life or death… but maybe many adults don’t really believe that anymore.

Was the movie funny… Yes. Was it intertaining… Yes. But then again, so are many other things that are dangerous and bad for us.…br /> My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4½
—Evangelist Paul Dodson, age 46
Negative—I think it’s great that some hidden meanings have been picked up in this film through this fantastic site. There is also a socialist aspect to it also. This film has been very well orchestrated, like many others with Masonic messages. Sceptical? Note the symbol on Granny’s rocking chair. I ask, if it had nothing to do with Freemasonry, why have their logo in it at all? Another Masonic symbol was the pyramids on the mantle. This movie plays just a small part in the overall work, to shape us towards the coming New World Order (Revelations). Our eyes wide shut. We don’t truely see what is all around us, in plain sight.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Steve, age 37
Comments from young people
Positive—I went in with my younger siblings thinking it would be pretty boring, but I actually ended up enjoying the movie. I liked the part up on the mushroom when they were talking about humans compared to ants. It reminded me of the verse that says, 'Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise.' The only part I had a problem with was the wizards and potions. Aside from that, I would definitely reccomend it.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3
—Megan, age 13
Neutral—…a fun film to watch, but it did have a downside. The ant mother was said to have gave birth to the first colony, which was a symbol of creation. The ant mother was said to be the queen of queens and the ant mother was someday to return to save all the ants. This all can be found in the Bible; yet I think jthat is was all right, but just explain to kids about the parts listed above.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Gabby, age 10
Neutral—It was a really nice movie, but… it was a little bit slow. Since it is one of the shorter movies out there, if you’ve seen the commercial then you will sort of know what will happen in the movie. So I would recommend that you take kids from 5-7 because older kids will get bored with it fast! So maybe take the little kids and then after that take the older kids to do something afterwards.
My Ratings: Good / 3
—Charlie Ray, age 11
Negative—I don’t think that the movie is “mocking Christianity” rather, it is refering to Wicca. Notice the potions, wizardy, and the cathe phrase “Praise the mother!” While viewing this film, my mom told me about what the “mother” was, and all along the movie we were trying to find everything we could that might have inclinations/references to something bigger. There were two masonic references, the obvious one being the square and combass on the grandmother’s rocking chair, and the second on being the pyramids you see when Lucas and the other ants are hang gliding on flower petals. You hear the phrase “praise the mother” many times during the movie. Stan’s combany is called 'Beals-a-Bug', a reference to satan. Put an “a” into Stan’s name and you get Satan. Overall, I did not particularly enjoy the film simply because of all the distractions created by these references. I would not recommend it to anybody, whatever age you may be.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—Josiah, age 16