May 9, 2013

Bee Movie (2007)

MY AFFECTION FOR DreamWorks Animation has definitely grown over the last five years, thanks to more deeply developed offerings such as the Kung Fu Panda films, How to Train Your Dragon, and last year’s Rise of the Guardians.

But before that, DreamWorks’ output lacked the depth and imagination that Pixar was providing in droves. And 2007’s Bee Movie is (hopefully) one of the last installments of that earlier time.

Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) is a college grad who’s eager to begin his career as a worker bee in his hive. Since bees have a short lifespan, he knows he has to make his career choice count – once a bee picks a job in the hive, they’re stuck with it for the rest of their (abbreviated) life. While out collecting pollen, Barry befriends Vanessa (Renée Zellweger), a human who values all living things, including Barry. When Barry is outraged that people have been “stealing” bees’ honey for years, Vanessa helps him file a lawsuit against the human race.

Bee Movie is pollinated here and there with make-you-smile cleverness, but out-loud laughs are few. Many jokes will go over kids’ heads, but the punchlines won’t satisfy the adults who get them. (It really took four writers to come up with this?)

In addition to uneven humor and lack of character depth, the film demands huge suspensions of disbelief. The fact that Vanessa accepts and befriends a talking bee after only a few moments is hard to swallow, not to mention the swarms of people in the courtroom during Barry’s lawsuit trial who also seem unaffected by Barry’s ability to speak. It’s also tough buying the seasoned, “lemme tell ya” voice of 53-year-old Jerry Seinfeld as a recent college graduate. (If you’re dying for a Jerry/Puddy reunion, Seinfeld’s Patrick Warburton voices Vanessa’s arrogant and jealous boyfriend, Ken.)

Bee Movie starts with a promising premise – questioning the idea of having one monotonous job your entire life (a la Wreck-It Ralph) – but soon devolves into a much less engaging plot involving a courtroom trial that kids won’t care about, much less understand. Uneven and too clever for its own good, Bee Movie provides occasional glimpses of inspiration, but ultimately not enough sting.


What did FilmBoy and Jack-Jack think?
FilmBoy stayed with Bee Movie for the first hour, but then his attention waned and he started looking at his Pokemon cards. His final verdict: “It was okay.” Meanwhile, Jack-Jack soaked in every bit, getting visibly animated at much of what was going on.

Is it suitable for your kids?
Bee Movie is rated PG for "mild suggestive humor."
Language: A bee accuses Barry of “making out” with Vanessa. When he needs to go to the bathroom, Barry declares he needs to “drain the ol’ stinger.” A bee says of a female co-worker, “She’s hot!” Barry describes a character as being “very Jewish.” In a low moment, Barry and Vanessa jokingly discuss a “suicide pact” and how they would do it. One mention each of “drag queen,” “poo water,” and “heaving buttocks.”
Violence: Vanessa stabs herself with a fork to make sure she’s not dreaming. Barry has a dream where Vanessa crashes a plane she’s piloting and it bursts into flames. There are several scenes of slapstick punching and slapping. Ken tries to swat, smash, and light Barry on fire during a fight.
Adult Themes: There’s an ongoing theme, though handled lightheartedly, of dying and death due to the bee’s short lifespan.
Smoking: A human passerby smokes a cigarette.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
The images and premise of Bee Movie may appeal to her, but she may balk at the pedestrian humor and questionable adult material in such a child-targeted film.

Wow – that's one honey of a serve!
(Oh, boo-hiss to you, too.)

Bee Movie
* Directors: Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith
* Screenwriters: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, Andy Robin
* Stars: Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Eddie Izzard, Alan Arkin, Megan Mullally, Rip Torn, Larry Miller, Barry Levinson
* MPAA Rating: PG

Rent Bee Movie from Netflix >>


StuOhQ said...

I love Seinfeld but I could never bring myself to watch this movie. Based on your review, I'm glad I avoided it.

As an amateur animator, I also have a disposition against talking-animal features. There have been some great ones, to be sure, but the sheer number of them makes my head spin.

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