Mark Reviews Movies


2 Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith

Cast: The voices of Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson

MPAA Rating: PG (for mild suggestive humor, and a brief depiction of smoking)

Running Time: 1:30

Release Date: 11/2/07

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Review by Mark Dujsik

The joke of the title of Bee Movie sums up its humor and, well, the movie itself. People who use puns think they're clever. They're not; they're just people who use puns. There are a lot of puns, pop-culture references, and broad satirical elements in Bee Movie, and as a result, the jokes fall into two categories: Obvious jokes that catch one off-guard just enough to laugh, and obvious jokes that hang there, waiting for laughs that never come. Compare this to the output of a studio like Pixar, and the movie really fits its title: a second-rate computer-animated comedy. Bee Movie is primarily the result of star/co-writer/producer Jerry Seinfeld, who is most famous for a show about nothing, and that's also appropriate, as this movie is really about nothing as well. Sure, there are a lot of elements at play here, but none of them distinguishes the movie enough to make an impression. It's only after we've gone through a whole trial (How does a movie about bees include a courtroom plot, you may ask, and that's a good question) that the movie finally comes to some kind of focus, and after hinting at themes like individualism vs. society, the simple science lesson it arrives at is dull.

Barry B. Benson (voice of Seinfeld) is getting ready for his big day, using honey as deodorant, mouth wash, and hair (fuzz) gel, trying to pick out a sweater (yellow and black, or black and yellow?), and talking to his friend on his cellular antenna. It's graduation day from school—all of it, as bees go through grade school, high school, and college in a matter of days. He and his friend Adam Flayman (voice of Matthew Broderick), part of the class of 9:15, are then whisked away to the factory of the Honex company in their hive, where every bee works nonstop until the day they die; bees have not had a day in 27 million years. While most bees are thrilled at the prospect of working the same job for the rest of their lives, Barry isn't most bees, so when a group of "pollen jocks" flies in after a mission of collecting nectar and pollinating flowers, Barry decides to fly with them the next day. While out admiring the big world outside of the hive, Barry is separated and finds his way inside the apartment of Vanessa (voice of Renée Zellweger), a human florist, who saves Barry from being crushed by her husband (voice of Patrick Warburton).

The first rule of bees is not to talk to humans (I'd assume it's to make honey, but they've got their own priorities set), but Barry is too grateful to and taken by Vanessa not to thank her for saving his life. So he strikes up a conversation with her.  At first, Vanessa thinks she's dreaming, but soon the two are talking into the sunset. Adam is horror-struck when Barry tells him the news and wants to make sure she's bee-ish and not a WASP. Their relationship is an impossible one, but bees are insects that, the opening narration tells us, don't care what humans think is impossible. After all, these are insects that shouldn't be able to fly, but once again, they don't care. Anyway, they make a trip to the grocery store, and Barry discovers that humans sell honey. Horrified, he makes a trip out to a honey farm (hitchhiking on the windshield of a truck, a common insect practice apparently) and finds that people smoke out bees to steal their honey. Barry finally has found something to do with his life, and he sues the human race. Attorney Layton Montgomery (voice of John Goodman, with a Matlock drawl) represents the honey industry.

There are a lot of plot threads here, and it's as though the screenwriters can't figure out on which storyline to focus. The stuff at the beginning in the hive finds some humor in satirizing corporate culture (beyond the puns on infamous company names (Enhon and Honeyburton)), but it's still homogenized, obvious stuff. The relationship between Barry and Vanessa is inherently baffling, even by animated human/animal relationship standards, but at least it gives us the movie's one genuinely hilarious moment when Barry's dream of Vanessa flying goes horrifically awry. The trial provides a few chuckles as Barry tries to demonstrate to the jury how people steal bee culture by calling witnesses like Sting and Ray Liotta (who has a line of honey in the movie's world). On that level, there's also a cameo by Larry King as Bee Larry King, which starts as another moment of King selling out and then gets funny, and there's a series of bee-related name puns of news anchors that ends by showing that even bees believe in diversity. These are the key humorous bits in the movie, and it pretty much dies out completely once it turns into an elementary lesson on the importance of bees to the ecosystem.

Seinfeld was never a good actor, and his whiny voice gets a bit tiresome after a while. That's forgivable as it's his persona, but worse, though, is that Bee Movie never really seems his product, even though his name is all over it. It's bright and cheery and watered down and, yes, completely average.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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