Bee Movie (2007)
Bee Movie (2007)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: November 2nd, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith Actors: Jerry Seinfeld, Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson, Ray Liotta, Sting, Rip Torn, Megan Mullally

 


 

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erry Seinfeld has been away from the spotlight for some time now, having done very little since his television show ended in 1998. But 2007 marks the year of his return – though only as a voice in a computer-animated film. While the premise is unique, the approach is generic, causing this excellently visualized, poorly executed family feature to encounter great difficulty in avoiding the already popular classification that “Bee Movie” is indeed a B-movie.

Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) is an average bee approaching adulthood, at which point he must decide upon a job in the hive. The catch is that once he chooses his job, he must keep it for the rest of his life (not unlike plenty of plots in dystopian teen sci-fi). Unsatisfied with the monotony of working in the hive, he ventures outside, where he meets a human woman named Vanessa (Renée Zellweger) who saves his life. Indebted, he breaks the cardinal bee rule: never talk to humans. At first, Vanessa has difficulty accepting the talking insect, but the two soon spend quite a bit of time together, allowing Barry to become overly comfortable as she reveals that she’s a florist. Enamored with the woman, despite the obvious interspecies barrier, Barry soon learns that humans have been stealing honey from bees to sell and eat it. Infuriated, he sets out to sue the honey company – with the help of Vanessa and his bee pals.

Apparently, bees drive cars, they are all cousins, and they can use their antennae as cell phones. The comical world the creators have devised for the black-and-yellow critters is perhaps the most creative aspect of the film. Many parallels reside in Barry’s rebellious teen years and human childhood, as specifically referenced by a sensationally hysterical homage to “The Graduate.” From voting the queen bee into monarchy, to pollination, to insects on windshields to their attraction to lights, many of the typical insect behaviors are addressed and translated into humorous gags. Supposedly – and in the way it helps designing an interactive plot – bee thinking is quite similar to humans.

The animation (from Dreamworks, the studio behind “Shrek”) continues to excel in its high-quality sheen, from the cartoon movements and facial expressions of the characters (despite the inability to capture photorealism in humans) to the nearly flawless reflections and refractions of the inanimate objects and background environments. Barry gets stuck to a tennis ball and batted around in slow motion, and sucked into the engine of a car; both scenes – and plenty of others – are carried out with exceptional editing and camera movements that can only be achieved by computer animation. But the advancements in visuals can’t alter the creativity – or lack thereof – in the scripting itself.

Hysterical character designs and voice acting also add to the fun, with jocose performances by John Goodman, Patrick Warburton, Chris Rock, and even cameos by Michael Richards (whom many joked would play the role of an Africanized bee) and Larry King (as Bee Larry King). What doesn’t work as well is the way in which the tale is imparted. The film often contradicts itself with the reactions of the humans to talking bees, as well as with what Barry is capable of realistically doing – as nothing more than a heavily personified insect. Some of the jokes elicit laughter, but most are on an unexpectedly low intelligence level, with many of the primary components aimed specifically at younger audiences. As is often with computer-animated projects, visual perfection routinely overshadows the time spent trying to devise an enticing story – and so “Bee Movie” falls into the arena of overly kid-friendly pictures that fails to inspire or resonate.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10