Maybe it’s because the Ant Queen (summer’s movie MVP, Meryl Streep) is so excellently magisterial. Or because Nurse Ant Hova and Wizard Ant Zoc (Julia Roberts and Nicolas Cage, both of them loose and playful — yes, Cage is playful, not gloomy!) are such a cool formicary couple. Or because the goggling, goofy-glasses IMAX 3D experience (available, as they say, in select theaters) magnifies the charms, and the dramas, of very teensy insects and one temporarily tiny boy. All I know is, the kind of life lessons that usually gum up the fun go down as easily as jelly beans in The Ant Bully, an effortlessly clever animated confection directed by Jimmy Neutron creator John A. Davis, who also wrote the screenplay.
True enough, it’s not nice to be mean. And in the beginning (as in John Nickle’s illustrated kids’ book of the same name), 10-year-old Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler Eisen) persecutes downward, stomping a convenient anthill after being tormented by the neighborhood blobby brute. And only when Lucas himself is shrunk (by, oh, the usual — a magic potion whipped up by Zoc and dropped in the kid’s ear) does he learn what cooperation, friendship, and awesome ant culture are all about. Yeah, yeah. Point is, bugs — and a bug-size boy —are funny. And, following Monster House, another PG cartoon turns out to be a secret clubhouse for the cool kids this summer.