Hank: The Pixar viewing party rolls on! 1998’s “A Bug’s Life” has John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton revisiting their “Toy Story” formula, (colorful micro-cosmos / diverse cast of characters that finds strength in their differences.) But if this is a formula, it’s Formula One! Vroom-vroom! Flick (Dave Foley, who cross-dressed in “Kids in the Hall” and played the straight man in “Newsradio”) is a clever inventor ant. Atta (Elaine Benes herself, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) is the princess-ant who’s dealing with a tyrannical grasshopper, played by Keyzer Soze, a.k.a. Kevin Spacey. (The evil grasshopper is called Hopper, which is not Pixar at its most creative.) Hopper demands tribute from the ant colony; Flik ruins Atta’s tribute to Hopper. As atonement, the hopeless inventor sets out to look for a crew of warrior bugs daring enough to stand up to the voracious, grass-hopping bullies. Instead, Flik finds a mediocre circus troupe, composed of the likes of David Hyde Pierce as a stick bug, Madeline Kahn as a dazzling butterfly, and Dennis Leary as a manly ladybug. Flik recruits the troupe under false pretenses. Will the circus bugs and the ant colony succeed in their fight against evil? No. The circus bugs are executed, and the ants scream in pain as the grasshoppers rip right through their flimsy exo-skeletons. The movie ends with a mournful pan over thousands of dismembered cartoons, their cutesy faces contorted in rictus in pains, while Randy Newman’s song, “Death is My Bestest Buddy,” plays in the background.
Just kidding! Of course it all turns out alright!
Trent: “A Bug’s Life” is a movie so colorful, it’s like twin butterflies land on your eyeballs, right? And then you blink really quickly to frighten them away. But that just traps the butterflies, and they get all smushed inside your eyelids in their hopeless, winging attempts at freedom, and they die in there, and now the whole world is a nightmare of dead rainbows scratching your cornea every time you close your eyes, and you wish, (oh how you wish!) that someone would get the butterflies out. But there is no getting them out, and there will never be, and all you know is colors and pain, and that’s ok, because at least you’ll never again have to hang out with that smelly philosophy grad student who forces you to listen to “the full Zaireeka experience” before he remembers to brings out his LSD stamps. Cherry!
Tracey: “A Bug’s Life” is much more conventional than “Toy Story” or most of the other Pixar classics- and the script isn’t as riddled with gems. Also, as a member of PETASS, (and here I have to specify that PETASS, the “People-for-the-Ethical-Treatment-of-Animals Sympathizer Society,” is in no way affiliated, endorsed, or even acknowledged by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) I cannot hand out cherries to movies who glorify Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. After all, PETASS stood by and clapped sympathetically while PETA brought down those monsters, after 146 years of whipping lions and elephants.
Trent: Yeah, I remember that! PETA bribed a disgruntled circus worker to make up a whole pile of elephant manure about how RB and B&B was secretly torturing animals. When investigators unveiled the hoax, PETA quickly settled out of court for 9 million bucks, but by then all the easily-triggered Traceys of the world were already too busy picketing to figure out they’d been fooled.
Tracey: One of these days I’m going to shove a musket up your butt and you’re going to learn what “easily-triggered” means.
Trent: All I’m saying is, there’s a sucker born every meme! Now that PETA brought down the circus, there’s many sad, unemployed clowns roaming about and terrifying small towns. And it’s all of because of people like TRACEY. “It” FOLLOWS!
Beatricia: Darlings, you’re both wrong. It wasn’t PETA who ruined people’s childhood! (They simply slandered Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey with nonsense, while covering up the inconvenient fact that PETA murders the majority of the animals that fall under their care.) It was actually ASPCA (the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) who bribed that man into lying about the elephant abuse! BUT who cares about any of that? There’s always Cirque du Soleil, where the only abuse is directed at underfed Ukrainian acrobats, kidnapped Vietnamese children, and naive American circus-goers who have to pay $100 dollars for a ticket and $5 for a bottle of Evian.
Grandpa Felicius: Cirque Du Soleil?!? I would rather die than patronize Franco-Canadian entertainment!!!
Tracey: … I hate my family, and I hate the circus, and I hate “A Bug’s Life.”
Beatricia: All I have to say about “A Bug’s Life” is that ants are supposed to have SIX legs. That is the rule. Do I have to make a chart? Within the Phyllum Arthropoda we have:
Insects- These are six-legged. Examples: Ants. Crickets. Bees.
Arachnids- These are eight-legged. Examples: Spiders. Scorpions. Daddy Longlegs.
Myriapods- These are many-legged. Examples: Inhuman Centipedes. Inhuman Millipedes.
Crustaceans- These are delicious. Examples: Lobsters and Shrimps!
Those are the rules. And yet mere seconds into “A Bug’s Life” we see ants that have FOUR legs. I didn’t know if I should feel sad for all these marching amputees, (survivors of some mutilation war) or if I should feel disgust for the slothful Pixar employees who decided four legs were easier to animate than six legs. Were they running low on pixels? Five minutes in, and we meet a grasshopper who sounds like Frank Underwood from “House of Cards” and has a NICTITATING MEMBRANE over its eyes. Number of insects with nictitating membranes: ZERO. Just because a grasshopper hops doesn’t make it a FROG! Completely destroyed my suspense of disbelief.
Cousin Franz: The plight of the angst-ridden ant replicates and elucidates the plight of the human condition, as E. O. Wilson has proposed again and again in his multi-Pulitzer-Award-Winning work. Hungry monarchs feed on the mindless conformism of the hard-working proletariat, which has been tricked into the delusion that their “hard work” enriches the community, even though all the evidence suggests that it only adds to the obesity of the monarch. Ants, of course, are largely blind. The worker ant goes through its life cycle of constant toil and dies of exhaustion in a matter of months. The queen thrives happily for decades. And yet her power is an illusion too. A garden hose can drown her empire in minutes. This is all to say that “A Bug’s Life” is a pretty cute movie, and it’s not about any of these things! Cherry.
Grandpa Felicius: “A Bug’s Life” is a rather derivative riff on 1932’s “Bugs in Love,” which was in turn inspired by a trip Walt Disney and I took to Swaziland in 1931.
(No one can say Wally wasn’t a visionary; even then, he was already planning his retirement to a remote country, just in case certain, er, questionable political sympathies of his should come into light). In any case, there he was, buying a jungle plot and pipe-dreaming about “The Magical World of Disney, (No Jews)” when a battalion of hungry Dorylus ants swarmed over him out of nowhere. He howled from the depths of his agony: “They hurt, Felicius, they hurt so much! It is as if a metaphorical Red Army was marching over me and biting me with their Commie mandibles!” I, who was hanging safely from a Bushwillow bough, shouted down at him: “They’re not red at all, Wally! Very black rather; they just seem red because of the blood pouring over your sockets!” Ah, each and every Silly Symphony has an equally silly tale behind it.
Blurbarella: “Dazzling Butterfly–Lands on Your Eyeballs– You–Are–Completely Destroyed– Largely Blind– Blood Pouring Over Your Sockets.”
4 out of 6 Cherries