Directed by: Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith
Premise: An animated film. Barry B. Benson (voice of Jerry Seinfeld), a honeybee with an independent streak, leaves the safety of the hive to discover the world of humanity and is shocked to discover that humans steal their honey and sell it. Barry teams up with a sympathetic woman (voice of Renée Zellweger) to file a lawsuit against the honey companies.
What Works: Bee Movie has some great animation in it, especially in the sequences where Barry flies out amid the human world and all of its perils. There have been similar scenes in other films like Toy Story, but here the filmmakers use the freedom of space to its full advantage and get some great, kinetically dynamic shots. The picture is also smart in its storytelling, setting up ideas and allowing them to pay off in due course. The relationship between Barry and Vanessa (Zellweger) is nice and gives the film some concrete emotional grounding. The humor ranges between slapstick, Seinfeld’s grammatical riffing, and subtle adult humor that will reach out to grownups, mostly in the form of puns on Jewish traditions and culture (a common subject of Jewish comedian Seinfeld). The honeycomb world of Bee Movie is intended to parallel our own culture as its inhabitants live in a consumer-capitalist environment where work defines everything. Barry’s consciousness and his search for an alternative gives the film some depth.
What Doesn’t: The film’s honeycomb metaphor for human existence falls apart toward the end and despite the sincere efforts of Seinfeld and Zellweger, the characters of Bee Movie are rather flat and do not have the kind of texture or depth featured in films like Monsters Inc. or A Bug’s Life. That is a very tall order, and Bee Movie is still far better than similar animated films like Shark Tale.
Bottom Line: Bee Movie is a fun film for adults and children, but more so for the kids. Despite the Marxist streak in the film, it’s just a little too simple, even for what is ostensibly a children’s film. In the end, Bee Movie ranks somewhere in the middle of the Dreamworks animation library.
Episode: #173 (January 6, 2008)