A Bug's Life
By Nell Minow,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Cute animated tale with some mild peril and scary bugs.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A very elementary look at insects: each species has a purpose and a place in the circle of life. In this film, individual bugs are given personality, identity and purpose, which may help engender kids’ respect for nature.
Teamwork, communication, resourcefulness, and courage can defeat a seemingly stronger enemy. Solutions to great problems can come from unlikely sources. It’s important to believe in yourself and have faith in your abilities. Nature has a certain order which is to be respected: "The sun grows the food; ants pick the food; grasshoppers eat the food; birds eat the grasshoppers."
Positive Role Models
Family relationships are important and special even in the insect world. Mothers provide for and protect their offspring. Flick, the hero ant, is smart, caring, loyal, and so brave that he’s willing to sacrifice all for the sake of his colony. At first he faces ridicule and self-doubt, but ultimately he saves the day, and everyone learns to value and respect him. Other species rise above their fear and join the team in order to survive.
Violence & Scariness
In cartoon terms, there are scary, intimidating bugs and birds, as well as some jeopardy to the film’s heroes involving fire, rain, falls, and capture. A troop of grasshoppers led by the fierce Hopper threatens the ant queen’s life, bullies the ant colony, swarms menacingly several times, and captures key ant players. Birds, looking for food, are enemies to all the insect species and swoop down perilously close to those most vulnerable. Flick, the bravest ant of all, is set upon by lots of other characters. He’s hit, captured, and nearly killed. There are numerous clever, nail-biting rescues, and the chief baddie is the only fatality.
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A few instances of "poo-poo," "butt," and "damn."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Bug's Life has lots of "good bug-bad bug" cartoon action and some images that could be scary to very young children who have not yet differentiated make believe violence from real violence, or to sensitive kids who are not comfortable with suspense or jeopardy. Scowling, threatening grasshoppers loom over and swarm toward a colony of vulnerable ants, the heroes of the story. The insects contend with fire, rain, predatory birds, as well as the power hungry grasshoppers. Older kids will enjoy the clever humor and the unique view of the insect world, as well as the interspecies conflicts.
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A Bug's Life
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What's the Story?
In A BUG'S LIFE, when Flik inadvertently loses the food tribute set out by the ants for the predatory grasshoppers, he must find a way to protect his community. In the spirit of The Magnificent Seven, he goes off in search of warrior bugs to fight the grasshoppers. He mistakenly hires a group of unsuccessful vaudevillians from (of course) a flea circus, who think they are being booked for a performance and have no idea he expects them to fight. But they turn out to have just the right stuff to help the ants fight the grasshoppers after all, and Flick gets to prove that he is a hero at heart.
Is It Any Good?
You'll need to see this delightful movie twice to appreciate the scope of its visual wit and technological mastery. Oddly enough, this wasn't the only computer-animated movie about bugs to come out in the fall of 1998; Antz was released just a month before, and the difference between the two animated bug movies is exemplified by their lead characters. Antz has Z, voiced by Woody Allen as -- well -- Woody Allen, angst-ridden, in analysis, searching for individual identity in a world of conformity. A Bug's Life has NewsRadio's Dave Foley providing his voice as Flik, an All-American ant-next-door type who is inventive, brave, and loyal.
Helped by outstanding voice talent, the rest of the movie's characters are quirky and endearing enough to make you forget they are computer-animated. Lending their voices are Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Phyllis Diller, Kevin Spacey, Spin City's Richard Kind, Frasier's David Hyde Pierce, and John Ratzenberger of Cheers. Antz was largely brown, but this movie uses a paintbox of color to produce stunning images with luminous tones.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the insect world in A Bug's Life. How many bugs can you name? How do bugs communicate in real life? Why do you think ants and bees live in such big colonies? How do they benefit the earth?
Families can also discuss bullies, and how to deal with them. What was Hopper's perspective on power? What did the ants do to combat the bullies? Have you ever encountered real-life bullies?
How do characters in A Bug's Life demonstrate teamwork, communication, and courage? Why are these important character strengths?
- In theaters: November 25, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: May 27, 2003
- Cast: Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey
- Director: John Lasseter
- Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Bugs
- Character Strengths: Communication, Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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