National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Prizer's Picks

BY Jim Cosgrove

March 26-April 01, 2000 Issue | Posted 3/26/00 at 2:00 AM

 

Antz (1998)

Ants are usually symbols for conformity and mindless hard work. This computer-animated feature breaks with the norm in an imaginative, root-f o r - t h e -underdog story about worker ants who overthrow an unjust caste system.

It also skillfully depicts how our human world must appear to small insects. Z (voice of Woody Allen) is a restless drone who falls for the snotty princess Bala (Sharon Stone). Hoping to get close to her, he switches places with a friend (Sylvester Stallone) who's a soldier in the royal army.

But instead the lovesick, meek worker-ant finds himself drafted into a battle against a fearsome-looking termite colony.

Z is the only survivor of a brutal skirmish. Hailed as a war hero, he teams up with the princess as they work together against an evil scheme by the power-hungry General Mandible (Gene Hackman).

Warning: Though Antz's message of self-sacrifice among comrades is appealing to both children and adults, some of its ironic humor is adults-only.

Breaking Away (1979)

Growing up is never easy.

Breaking Away is a low-key, charming comedy which explores those issues in the context of love, bicycle racing and class consciousness. Dave Stohler (Dennis Christopher) and his three buddies (Jackie Early Haley, Dennis Quaid and Daniel Stern) are working-class kids who've just graduated from high school in a college town.

They're called “cutters” by the haughty university students because most locals spend their lives cutting rock in limestone quarries. Dave, an enthusiastic cyclist, is ashamed of his background and pretends to be Italian, as that country produces the best bicycle racers. He also courts a college girl (Robyn Douglass).

Dave learns some hard lessons when real Italian cyclists pass through town and mistreat him.

He bounces back to compete in the annual university bicycle race, which the local college kids are favored to win. Especially moving is Dave's relationship with his father (Paul Dooley), who tries to understand his ambitious son despite his own limitations.

Groundhog Day (1993)

If you were forced to relive the same day over and over again, you would probably learn not to repeat the same mistakes. But would the experience also turn you into a better person?

Arrogant Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is assigned to cover a Groundhog Day celebration in nearby Punxsatawney with his hardworking producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), on whom he has a crush. Snowed in by a blizzard, he awakes the next morning in the same small town to find everything begins to happen the way it did the day before.

This process repeats itself day after day. Angry and bored, Bill tries to manipulate the situation to win Rita's heart, but he fails. His wiseguy bravado collapses into despair. Groundhog Day begins as a caustic comedy and seam-lessly transforms itself into a warmhearted fable.