Making the Grades
My children have saved thousands of lives. The huge anthill in my front yard still stands, thanks to their pleading with me to not sprinkle the deadly white powder on their friends. I must admit, having examined those little insects myself, I can only wonder what they're so busy doing...
Antz, the first animated creation of DreamWorks studios (co-owned by Steven Spielberg), gives us a peek into the hill in a way only animation can. The focus is on Z (Woody Allen), a worker ant who is fed up with conformity and living under totalitarian rule. After a chance meeting with Bala, the colony's princess (Sharon Stone), Z falls in love and unwittingly ends up fighting the corrupt dictatorship of General Mandible (Gene Hackman), the chief ant who calls the shots.
With a PG rating, Antz belongs to the trend of animations that are not suitable for all audiences. A moment of mild sexual innuendo and about ten occasions of minor profanity seem much more pronounced in an animated setting. But parents' main concerns will likely be with the violent scenes which, thanks to technological advances, are more realistic than ever. In a scene mimicking Saving Private Ryan (another DreamWorks release), General Mandible sends his soldiers into a suicide battle with the neighboring termites. The ants' only hope against the termites' acid spray and larger bodies is their superior numbers. The result is thousands of dead and mangled insects in a scene that could horrify young children.
Antz does provide an intriguing look at the importance of fighting for personal freedom while recognizing the benefits of uniting as a group. Z's initial preoccupation with self-gratification and his quest to find Insectopia fades by the end of the film when he risks his life and demonstrates how a colony can work together toward positive goals. If, after previewing the film, you show it to your children, ask them for ideas of how they can change the world in a positive way through individual actions.
Then perhaps our government leaders should study the anthills in their yard...