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Either the cliché of Hollywood producers being creatively bankrupt hacks is true, or 1998’s double shot of Antz and A Bug’s Life just didn’t cover all the bases of the CGI, insect-driven kids’ movie. Judging by John A. Davis’ The Ant Bully, it’s the former, as the film boasts little to help it stand out in a flood of superior children’s fare. Short, dweeby Lucas (Zach Tyler) is the natural target of the neighborhood bully, but there’s always someone smaller and more helpless, as Lucas discovers when he floods a large anthill in his front yard out of frustration. Luckily for the colony, resident magician Zoc (a somnambulant Nicolas Cage) has concocted a plot device, err…potion that shrinks Lucas down to ant size. He’s then captured and brought before an ant version of a war-crimes tribunal, where he’s sentenced to live among the colony until he “becomes an ant.” Reluctantly, Lucas starts to understand and care for his new comrades—just in time to lend a hand when the big bad exterminator (Paul Giamatti) comes to wipe out the colony for good. The script, co-written by Davis and John Nickle (the author of the original children’s book), strings together scenes of daily ant life, pitched battles, and melodrama in no particular order, with lame dialogue and insect puns being the only unifying elements. And several set pieces, from a teamwork-building obstacle course to a wasp-assisted airstrike on a towering human, feel like they were written with a video-game tie-in, not a film audience, in mind. There’s not a lot going on for adults here, either, which is unthinkable in an age when most films of this type are working on multiple levels. Cage is miscast as a quick-tempered, earnest type, and providing the voice of his underwritten love interest, Hova, Julia Roberts doesn’t have much to work with. Luckily, the comic foils take up a lot of the slack, with Bruce Campbell lending his trademark overconfident-goofball shtick and Regina King doing a funny, noncloying “sassy sister” routine. Visually, the various ants, wasps, and glowworms are the most interesting things going on here; the human characters have the same plasticky look as the characters in Davis’ other CGI kid flick, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. If only Zoc had invented a potion to teach valuable lessons, he could have saved everyone, from Lucas and the ants to audiences everywhere, a great deal of time and effort.—Jason Powell