Movie Review: Bee Movie
By Matthew Huntley
November 18, 2007
After his TV series ended, Jerry Seinfeld said he wasn't interested in making movies. He should have stuck with that idea. His new animated feature, Bee Movie, is so tired, flat and unfunny it shocks and pains me to write such words. Seinfeld is a comedian many would agree is the best of his kind - witty, insightful, humble, offbeat. Could the same man really have been satisfied with a movie like this?
Given the target audience, perhaps I'm being too rough. But then, given Seinfeld's track record for finding humor in the unlikeliest of places, I believe he's smarter than this movie gives him credit for. If Bee Movie turns out to be a big hit (and I'm assuming it will since it's another animated feature from the DreamWorks machine), then Seinfeld should pay attention to the critical response and use it as a learning experience for what not to do next time. His next movie's budget could allow him to do something really great.
Seinfeld voices a honeybee named Barry B. Benson (you see, he has three Bs in his name, get it?), and he's just graduated from elementary school, high school and college in a matter of days (that's an amusing comment on a male bee's 50-day lifespan). With his pal Adam (Matthew Broderick), Barry is ready to join his hive's workforce at the Honex Corporation, but he's discouraged when he finds out he'll be working the same job everyday for the rest of his life. That introduces some major anxiety for the little insect.
Craving some adventure, Barry joins the pollen jocks to gather nectar in the outside world. His curiosity and sense of wonderment eventually get him stuck to a tennis ball, flushed through a car's engine system, and nearly swatted to death. Luckily, Vanessa Bloome (Renée Zellweger) is there to rescue him and Barry is amazed by her kindness, falling instantly in love with the human.
Vanessa works as a florist (what else would she be given her last name?) and the two develop an endearing friendship. I liked how the script made Vanessa, and eventually the rest of the human characters, open to the bees' ability to talk. It would have been a waste of time to harp on such implausibilities.
But the movie doesn't demand enough from itself. Seinfeld, who co-wrote the screenplay with Seinfeld alumni Spike Feresten and Andy Robin, along with Barry Marder, overloads the movie with too many puns and cheap sight gags. There came a point when I could tell the writers didn't know where to go with their story and at about the 40-minute mark, started to search for other conflicts to bring it on home.
To his dismay, Barry learns humans enslave bees to produce commercial honey. It disgusts him even more that a bear, of all animals, is used to represent his specie's number one product! So he brings a lawsuit against the corporations and demands they give the bees back what's rightfully theirs. Who else does Barry call to the stand but Sting and Ray Liotta? And of course he mentions the disgraceful reputations of companies like Honron and Honeyburton. Ha ha.
Bee Movie is harmless in the grand scheme of things, and its bright colors and sweet-natured characters will marvel little kids for 90 minutes, but adults won't find much here. Don't be fooled into thinking this is Seinfeld doing his schtick as a bee. It's actually less than that.
The movie is redundant and eventually gets bogged down by its own supposed cleverness, and Seinfeld shows he's no stronger as a voice actor than he was as a television actor. In fact, his voice kind of gets obnoxious after a while, being so high-pitched and whiny. Just to be cute, I could say Bee Movie is more like a C movie, or that Bee Movie fails to sting its audience with delight, but that'd just get on your nerves, kind of like this movie does.
Even the animation, especially the human characters, looks plastic and one-dimensional in spots. When amazing steps in animated storytelling are taken with Ratatouille (which, by the way, never resorted to silly "rat" puns), Bee Movie looks limp by comparison. I'm more than happy to see Jerry Seinfeld segue into feature films, but before he takes another step, he first needs to be reminded of his own intelligence and comedic skill because we know they're above this.