I think this has to go down as probably the grooviest score of the year. I would not normally have many kind words of comment on the music of either of the composers of this score, but by giving them something other than another godawful action pic, Dreamworks gave them a great political satire about ants, starring the most neurotic hero of the year (thus someone I could relate to....) in the form of the voice of Woody Allen
. To accompany this tail of excitement, social revolution, romance, subterfuge and more ant gags that you can throw a stick at, Gregson-Williams and Powell have created a multi-faceted score that is often rather schizophrenic, but not to the point of distraction. It probably bears better comparison with Danny Elfman
than anyone else, although unlike recent Elfman efforts (most notably Flubber), Antz remains tuneful and never gets too caught up in its own sense of fun, something that Elfman seems to have forgotten of late. Antz is brimming with themes which always helps and while there isn't a great deal of variation in them, mostly performance changes, there are enough to keep the interest up throughout.
The opening title introduces Z's Theme which is a laid back piano ditty that, like the character, isn't quite sure of where it's going. I know that sounds like a silly explanation, but hearing is believing, I think. The theme for the Colony is a very industrious tune with bouncing bass line with a whistled worker theme that perfectly sums up the ant colony as it is at the beginning. The opening of that track has a few arpeggios that seem to echo Philip Glass
's music to Koyaanisquatsi, whether by mistake or not, it seems like quite a natty thing to have included! Princess Bala and General Mandible don't have very strong tunes, although the almost Patton-like hymnal approach to Mandible's music is entirely appropriate, especially in Mandible and Cutter Plot. The mystical world of Insectopia gets its own theme which introduces a suitable mysterious and epic tone to what is essentially a rubbish bin. The Picnic Table not only has the Insectopia theme, but also introduces a wonderful theme for the wasps that Bala and Z meet on their adventures outside the colony. It calls to mind the Flower Duet by (I think, but am not at all sure) Delibes. Whatever, it does help to perk up the latter half of the score as by then all the other themes have been introduced and something else is needed.
The most interesting music is generally toward the beginning, for my money. The Colony is a particular standout. The use of Guantanamera (which you might not have heard of, but will probably recognise) is inspired, especially when Z and Bala do their Saturday Night Fever
bit. The Antz Go Marching to War uses the rather unsurprising choice of When Johnny Comes Marching Home and while this works just fine, it doesn't have the cool variations that Goldsmith managed with Small Soldiers
. The end of that cue details the brief battle with the termites and is actually quite scary, at least of what is essentially a kid's film (although I think the entire thing is wasted on most kids, but still). One of the most delicate sections of the score is the death of Barbados, which is remarkably touching without becoming cloyingly sentimental.
Perhaps only in the penultimate cue does the score become a little more mundane. The cue is much more extended than most of the others (almost 8 minutes compared to an average of 2 or 3 minutes) and it doesn't have enough structure or inventiveness to quite compared. However, it is a minor quibble as the rest is absolutely great fun and will always be able to put a smile on your face!
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad