Children abide (or don’t) in this week’s new movie releases, including The Florida Project and Goodbye Christopher Robin
Matthew Lickona 3 p.m., Oct. 20
Disney's second computer-animated feature, following Toy Story, and somewhat embarrassingly released two months after Antz, from arch-rival DreamWorks. There can be no question of outright copycattery. The movies were too close to neck-and-neck for that. But the mere coincidence of two computer-animated features set in an ant colony and centered around a klutzy worker and a feisty queen-to-be -- and vertical ants in both cases -- says a lot about a lack of imagination. To be completely fair about it, there is plenty of embarrassment to spread around retrospectively to the earlier arrival as well, although the view of the ant colony therein, the sociology in addition to the topography, is a good deal more complicated and detailed. It's true that the ants in A Bug's Life look less like space aliens, but then again they look less like ants, too, with bodies the color and the consistency of molded taffy, and big, googly, Tickle-Me-Elmo eyeballs. More bluntly, they look terrible. The menacing grasshoppers, whose relation to the ant colony is precisely that of Eli Wallach's bandidos to the peaceful farming village in The Magnificent Seven (their stereotyped South-of-the-Border lair might raise a protest from Hispanic groups), are a bit better, though their edge owes less to their look than to Kevin Spacey's drippingly contemptuous delivery of lines in the Eli Wallach part. The troupe of circus bugs (ranging from a well-done walkingstick to a ghastly Michelin Tire caterpillar), who through a misunderstanding are recruited to defend the colony against the marauders, introduce an element of effeminate campiness that has likewise marred the recent output from the traditional Disney cartoon factory. Directed by John Lasseter. 1998.