Bee Movie (2007) / Animation-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for mild suggestive humor, and a brief depiction of smoking
Running time: 90 min.
Cast (voices): Jerry Seinfeld, Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson, Oprah Winfrey, Larry Miller, Megan Mullaly, Rip Torn, Michael Richards, Mario Joyner
Cameo (voices): Larry King, Ray Liotta, Sting
Director: Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith
Screenplay: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, Andy Robin
Review published November 5, 2007
Given the fact that computer-animated movies have almost all been variations of the same thing rehashed with newer, cuter animals, it should come as little surprise to know that Bee Movie delivers everything you'd expect to see. Nevertheless, it delivers it well. Really, all it is is a cross between Antz (one bug in a colony finding his own path) and Shrek (constant pop culture allusions done in rapid tongue-in-cheek fashion), with perhaps a few dozen others sprinkled here and there.
Putting aside the fact that Bee Movie's adherence to formula makes it almost indistinguishable from many others to trod the same path, it is actually surprisingly enjoyable, with jokes that actually amuse, a story that has legs, and a vibrant, cheeky attitude that makes it difficult to dislike. It also doesn't cater more to a strictly young demographic, which does make it an all-ages family film that has become increasingly rare to pull off. It's certainly not a must-see movie, but if you enjoy 3D animated fare, it's a safe bet you'll have a good time with this one.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld (Comedian, "Seinfeld") , who also contributes some of his trademark witticisms in the script, stars as Barry, a young bee on the verge of adulthood who leaves his Central Park hive because he can't quite see any value in working as a drone the rest of his days. Free to view the world of humans anew, he befriends a young florist, Vanessa Bloome (Zellweger, Cinderella Man), who takes Barry under her wing to explain how the outside world operates. Barry is astonished to learn of how humans have been using his kind in order to produce honey and live in artificial environments for the sole purpose of being an additive in items for human consumption. He devises a plan to hit humans where it hurts, their pocketbooks, filing a lawsuit to put an end to bee subjugation.
Although it sounds from the plot synopsis that Bee Movie might be marred by a heavy-handed morality lesson about being kind to one's fellow creatures, thankfully, the message is delivered with minimal attention in order to get it across. Perhaps learning from the excesses of Happy Feet, the creative minds behind this film make every effort to keep the action and tone light and frothy, even when dealing with such serious issues as bee cruelty and the potential end of human civilization without the important floral pollination process that bees provide.
Perhaps the only aspects of Bee Movie that were not to my personal liking happen to be the human-like appearance and lifestyle of the bees. While certainly a photorealistic depiction of bees in a film might be too unnerving to be considered cute from those deathly afraid of them, giving them human faces and mannerisms makes them little more than mini-humans with the ability to fly and a peculiar mode of living. Such things as the bees ability to speak English, read, and understand human customs are never really explained (Barry attributes it to his education), so it does require audiences not to think too hard. It's too asinine to believe that after millennia of human/bee interaction that an unremarkable bee like Barry would be the first to break the barrier that exists between the two worlds.
Still, for all of its curious logic leaps and redundancy in the genre, Bee Movie proves more than worthwhile by actually being amusing and interesting, and never grossly overbearing. Solid animation and voice work, along with some clever writing, all add up to one of the better examples of the formula in recent years. Although called Bee Movie, it certainly is only by title and not execution.
©2007 Vince Leo