It ain’t easy being a bee with a multitude of difficult issues to consider, like flower pollination, nectar collection, and interspecies romance. Yes, you read that correctly. With Bee Movie, Jerry Seinfeld finally steps out of his nine-year slumber from viable commercial material and cautiously dips one wee toe into the celluloid pool. Fortunately, Seinfeld has made the sensible choice to ride the last hurrah of animated anthropomorphization with DreamWorks/Paramount. Taking up directorial duties are Simon J. Smith (Shrek 4-D) and Steve Hickner (The Prince of Egypt), with Seinfeld going for the honey-money shot as a producer and screenwriter. Seinfeld also voices the main character, so the Seinfeld touch is fairly ubiquitous. Speaking of ever-present, the film will also get a boost from the promotional buzz that many have been mindlessly absorbing on Honey Nuts Cheerios boxes for several weeks now. Fortunately, the film itself isn’t as obnoxious as the promotion. The timing couldn’t be much better for Bee Movie, either. The holiday films are still weeks away on the horizon and The Game Plan is just leaving its rather successful theater run. The time is right for Bee Movie to hone in on its box-office target.
At the film’s onset, Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld) graduates from school after three days each of elementary school, high school, and college. As with all bees, Barry is expected to promptly start work at the honey factory. His proud parents, Janet (Kathy Bates) and Martin (Barry Levinson), want Barry to follow the family tradition as a Stirrer. Unlike the other newbies, Barry isn’t instinctually tuned into the hive mind, and he falls into something of an existential crisis. Life as a drone just doesn’t interest him, but unfortunately, a post-graduate spiritual journey across India just isn’t in his fortune cookie. While Seinfeld’s voice whines poetically about the injustices of bee life, Matthew Broderick’s voice takes on the role of Adam, Barry’s BFF (bee friend forever). Adam wonders why Barry even cares about the outside hive because, let’s face it, he’s a motherfucking bee. Still, Barry’s inner self just can’t be satisfied with life as a Stirrer or Crud Gatherer, and so he sneaks away when called upon to declare his lifelong, hive-related profession.
Barry and his yearning soul venture into New York City as a rookie of hive’s muscle-bound pollination force — the audience experiences the passably spectacular joyride over Central Park. Then, Barry unwittingly gets separated from the group and, to avoid a rainstorm, he ducks for cover inside an apartment. Just when he might have faced death by Italian Vogue, a florist named Vanessa Bloome (Renee Zellweger) steps in and saves his life. Later, Barry breaks the most important bee law — speaking to a human — to thank Vanessa. He is clearly smitten; she is likewise beewitched. The smooth-talking Barry soon charms Vanessa, who is clearly insane for falling in love with a bee. Nevertheless, she soon dumps her bumbling boyfriend to date Barry because, like, human males are so totally overrated.
One day, the happy couple are walking through Manhattan and pop into a grocery store, in which Barry is shocked to find an aisle of honey for sale. After infiltrating a honey farm, Barry snaps a few photos and flies back to the hive for a quick appearance on Bee Larry King Live’s show on BeeNN. With Vanessa’s help, Barry sues the human race (jurisdiction be damned!) for engaging in the species-long habit of stealing the bees’ honey. The courtroom, with Judge Bumbleton (Oprah Winfrey) presiding, is host to several celebrity cameos. Witnesses include Ray Liotta and Sting, who appear as themselves to defend their exploitation of the bees. In particular, Sting seems to be sued jointly and severally under some whackjob statute on the unrelated issue of his name. It’s pretty asinine, but it’s sort of cute to experience Sting’s self-depreciating humor (who knew Sting has a sense of humor?). The stereotypically skeevy corporate lawyer, Layton T. Montgomery (John Goodman), warns Barry that screwing with the delicate balance of the species will cause terrible consequences. Lessons are learned blah blah blah blah. Fortunately, all of this happens at a breakneck pace and ends happily after 90 minutes, which really should be the projected goal for all family films.
So, Bee Movie is essentially a cross-pollination of some semi-clever CGI work and a shitload of overpaid celebrity voices. There’s not a lot here besides events and a smattering of slight laughter at jokes that will (thankfully) go over the kids’ heads. Seinfeld cautiously avoids delving too far into the drone-corporate dichotomy and similarly glosses over many other larger issues that aren’t detailed in this review. The result is a whole lotta nothing, which is about what one expects from Seinfeld, but it’s also a relief to parents who don’t want their kids to deal with anything too heavy at such a young age. While the film isn’t exactly forging into novel territory, this film’s voice work isn’t nearly as grating as the Shrek cadre of alleged talent. Chris Rock makes a hard-hitting, extended cameo as a mosquito named Mooseblood, and Renee Zellweger shows a much more impressive voice range than I expected. However, not for one moment does the film suspend belief as to whom Barry B. Benson’s voice truly belongs to. Yet after an extended break from those stinging one-liners, the unmistakable presence of Jerry Seinfeld might not be such a bad thing after all.
Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She can be found avoiding cross-pollination at agentbedhead.com.Baby, You Wanna See My Stinger?
Film | November 4, 2007 | Comments ()