'Bee Movie' less than b-level

BY ELIE ZWIEBEL
Daily Arts Writer
Published November 12, 2007

Basically, "Bee Movie" bashes any and all possible jokes about the use of the letter 'b' beyond the bounds of bedazzling the audience. Anyone watching the movie will undoubtedly begin to bemoan sitting through it until they've crossed the borders into berating anything 'b,' including all bastards involved in "Bee Movie."

Brian Merlos
(COURTESY OF DreamWorks)

If you're already tired of the overuse of "b" humor, you'll only find Jerry Seinfeld's (TV's "Seinfeld") pet project obnoxious and overdone. Instead of using his characteristic ability to subtly insert jokes and plays on words, Seinfeld panders to the animated, family comedy franchise audience that's consuming cineplexes.

After spending a total of nine days growing up, Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld) the honey bee is ready for his job as just another drone in the hive. At least, he's supposed to be. Instead, freethinking and freewheeling Barry wants something more than being worked to death as a honey stirrer. He flees the coup (or hive), meets an insect-activist florist named Vanessa Bloome (Renée Zellwegger, "Miss Potter") and finds himself leading a lawsuit against people on behalf of the bees because (sorry about the "b" usage, but it's inevitable) the humans are exploiting the bees' honey.

Apparently, the first law in bee world is "don't talk to humans." If all bees sound and act like the ones in "Bee Movie," this law is for our own good. Seinfeld rarely leaves the tones of humbled matter-of-factness or absolute neurotic screech. Speaking of Seinfeld's neurotic tone, that's about the only thing New York about the movie aside from the setting. Seinfeld indulges childish puns at the expense of his Woody Allen-esque humor he's developed over his career.

Seinfeld deserves some credit, though. His original idea with "Bee Movie" was an animated movie with live actors. He and his costars would dress the part and act in front of animated sets and blue screens as if they too were animated. Goofy costumes and wire-work abound. Seinfeld in a bee suit and Chris Rock ("I Think I Love My Wife") as a mosquito. That would have been at least original.

Unfortunately, the logistics were too tiresome for Seinfeld and his co-filmmakers, so they abandoned the idea. Instead, "Bee Movie" is totally animated and totally formulaic to its genre.

Barry ends up causing more trouble in his quest for equal rights than he had previously anticipated. He finds himself facing a crisis that alludes to some sort of environmentalist agenda, but it ends up being half-baked. The other themes are equally undeveloped. Notions of individuality and fighting consumerism become so entangled and confused that the adults in the audience have to turn their brains off and enjoy the pretty images. But the animation is good. It's not new or innovative, but it's detailed and impressive.

Seinfeld calls in favors from all his comedian friends. Matthew Broderick ("Deck the Halls") voices Barry's childhood friend, John Goodman ("Evan Almighty") voices a Colonel-like southern lawyer and Rip Torn (TV's "30 Rock") lends his gruffness to a buzzing flight-commanding bee. Even tertiary characters have celebrity vocals (i.e. Larry King as Bee Larry King, Sting as himself and Oprah Winfrey as a judge). All this star power becomes a distraction. You can't help but try to pinpoint who's voicing who as nearly every character has a celebrity behind them.

"Bee Movie" opens with a few lines about how people don't really care about bees and how we're ignorant to their cause. But the movie doesn't do much for inspiring any sort of desire to care. Even the culminating scene with a flowery remake of "Here Comes the Sun" - one of the most sympathy and joy inducing songs ever written - doesn't provide for a smile. Unless you're under 10 years old.

Rating: 1 and a half out of 5 stars

Bee Movie

At Quality 16 and Showcase

DreamWorks