Parents with young boys who love Spider-Man but are concerned that the new Marvel films are too violent (or simply too long) for their kids might consider this live-action “family friendly” superhero movie as an alternative. Based on a European comic by Kenneth Bogh Andersen, “Antboy” is obviously inspired by the story of Peter Parke, but a pre-teen version: an ordinary twelve-year old named Pele Norhmann (Oscar Dietz) is bitten by a genetically-enhanced ant and develops special powers—he’s able to crawl up walls and possess superhuman strength. He puts them to good use when beautiful Amanda, the girl he has a crush on, is kidnapped by the obligatory villain, the Flea (Nicolas Bro), who also takes aim at Pele.
By this time, of course, under the mentorship of his new pal, a nerdy comic-book aficionado named Wilhelm (Samuel Ting Graf, Pele has adopted the guise of Antboy, complete with a costume that includes a mask and cape. It will come as no surprise that ultimately he’s successful—thanks not only to his abilities but to the support of his friends Wilhelm and Ida (Amalie Kruse Jensen), Amanda’s more outgoing sister.
“Antboy” is a Danish movie that’s been dubbed into English, but the dubbing job is actually pretty good, and the fact that lips and words don’t always mesh perfectly shouldn’t bother kids who watch Saturday morning cartoons. The overall quality is about on the level of Saturday morning kid TV too, with special effects that are—to put it mildly—none too special. Some parents might take it amiss that the source of little Pele’s strength is his consumption of sugar, and especially candy, which he gobbles down with gusto as needed. (Wilhelm even prepares a special device to provide an emergency supply.) It’s the equivalent of Popeye’s spinach, of course, but health-conscious parents won’t be nearly as pleased with it.
Overall, though, the movie is an innocuous affair that should satisfy tykes up to the age of ten or so. Adults might feel a desire to tune out, especially in the scenes featuring Pele’s utterly clueless parents (relatively few, thankfully) and his nasty gym teacher. But the rousing score by Peter Peter (that’s the name, not a misprint)—which tries to jazz up the mostly modest action—will keep them awake.
Fortunately, Dietz is a cute little chubby-cheeked fellow, and the other youngsters are attractive, too, even if director Ask Hasselbalch isn’t able to extract performances from them that are much beyond adequate. Bro, on the other hand, isn’t attractive at all, but that’s the point, after all.
DVD and Blu-ray seem the logical venue for “Antboy,” but it’s being given a brief theatrical run prior to its appearance in those formats. It’s hardly a great children’s movie, but the young actors are a pleasant enough bunch that at least you don’t feel like squashing it.