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Overall Rating
2.63

Awesome: 2.08%
Worth A Look: 14.58%
Average: 31.25%
Pretty Bad47.92%
Total Crap: 4.17%

6 reviews, 12 user ratings


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Bee Movie
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Plenty Of Honey, Relatively Little Funny"
2 stars

Because “Bee Movie” marks the first major cinematic effort from Jerry Seinfeld (not counting the 2002 documentary “Comedian,” it will no doubt attract attention from viewers who ordinarily would have no burning desire to sit through another CGI-animated epic involving cute creatures, well-known celebrity voices and numerous pop-culture references. And yet, those viewers hoping that Seinfeld, who conceived of the idea and co-wrote the screenplay in addition to starring in the film, would somehow find a way to revolutionize the genre in the same way that he did to the TV sitcom with “Seinfeld” are liable to come away from the film hugely disappointed. Instead of gently skewering the conventions of contemporary animation, it simply follows them to a T and as a result, it becomes just another anonymous bit of product that merely emulates the surface details of the enormously successful Pixar films without coming close to replicating the warmth, with and humanity that made them so popular and beloved in the first place.

In the film, Seinfeld gives voice to Barry B. Benson, an ambitious young bee who, as the story opens, graduates from college and, along with best friend Adam (Matthew Broderick), is about to embark on his only career choice–a lifetime of helping all the other bees in the hive make honey. Alas, Barry is a dreamer who is convinced that there is more to life than simply making honey and he gets a taste of it when he is allowed to join a squadron of “pollen jockeys” (the only bees allowed outside the hive) on a run amongst the flora, fauna and tennis courts of New York City. Along the way, Barry gets separated from the others and winds up in an apartment where he is saved from squashing by kind-hearted florist Vanessa (Renee Zellweger). Although bees are strictly forbidden from talking to humans, Barry is compelled to thank her for her act of kindness and after a couple of painful tests to determine that she isn’t dreaming, the two become fast friends.

One day, while accompanying her on a trip to the grocery store, Barry is stunned to discover that humans are taking virtually all of the honey produced by bees throughout the world and making enormous amounts of money by selling it to other humans. (To add insult to injury, some of the malefactors go so far as to put the honey in containers designed after one of their greatest foes–the bear.) After gathering evidence of the lengths that humans go to in order to grab the honey from those who actually make it, Barry does the only logical thing possible–he decides to sue the human race on behalf of his fellow bees in order to put a stop to it once and for all. Amazingly, he finds a court willing to hear the case–perhaps not that surprisingly when you realize that the judge presiding over the case is voiced by none other than Oprah Winfrey–and begins to argue his case against the vociferous defense of the honey industry mounted by sleazy Southern lawyer Layton T. Montgomery (John Goodman). After a series of setbacks, surprise star witnesses (at one point, Sting is dragged in to demonstrate the other ways in which mankind has appropriated bee culture over the years) and shocking revelations, the court finds in favor of Barry and all of the honey is returned to the bees. Alas, with a surplus of honey now on hand, the once-industrious bee population shuts down production from good and since part of the now-defunct production process involved the pollination of flowers, their idleness is killing off all the plants and is threatening the very survival of the planet.

While watching “Bee Movie,” my mind kept wandering away to thoughts of “Ratatouille,” the brilliant Pixar film from earlier this year about a rat with the secret desire to become a gourmet chef. Like “Bee Movie,” it was a film that took a fantastical concept–humans and rodents meeting and interacting over a shared loved of fine food preparation–and made it work by figuring out a way of playing up the fantasy elements while still grounding it in some form of reality. (When it is revealed towards the end that a rat has been doing all the cooking in the restaurant, the place is logically shut down immediately by the health department.) Here, there is no real sense of logic to the proceedings that undermines too many of the scenes. Why is it that, with the sole exception of Vanessa at first, no human being is particularly surprised by the utterly amazing revelation that bees are able to talk? How is it that a bee is able to file a lawsuit in federal court? Why is it that no one–not the bees, not the evil defense lawyers, not even Vanessa–who is, after all, a florist!–ever raises the notion of the dire consequences that might befall the world if the bees were to stop making honey? Look, I know as well as you that these are the questions that need to be ignored or overlooked in order for the story to progress as planned but I just wish that the screenplay had made more of an effort to deal with them instead of shunting them to the side and praying that no one would notice.

Instead, “Bee Movie” spends its time deploying the same tricks and gimmicks as the majority of the animated films that come along these days. The look of the film is bright and cartoony enough but lacks any distinctiveness–you might argue that the whole point of a hive mentality is to not be distinctive but I would respond by stating that films such as “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life” took place in similar worlds that felt as thought the filmmakers took a lot of time and effort into thinking them through. The jokes are the usual combination of silly slapstick for the kids (including another tiresome scene in which our hero barely survives being tossed into an unthinkable maelstrom–mid-town traffic, in this case), pop-culture references for the adults (including a bizarre scene that pays explicit homage to “The Graduate” for no apparent reason) and sub-“Flintstones” puns for audiences of all ages to groan at. (The bee news channel is “BNN”–get it?) And like too many films these days, animated or otherwise, it runs dry on ideas long before the end credits roll and the last half-hour is little more than a cry for desperation. I wouldn’t dream of giving away the particulars of the final act but couldn’t Seinfeld and his cohorts have dreamed up a more satisfying conclusion for their film than to essentially offer up an extended parody of one of the silliest disaster films of the 1970's–one that isn’t “The Swarm,” mind you?

I don’t want to come down too hard on “Bee Movie” because it does come up with some big laughs every once in a while–my favorites include the special guest appearance by Ray Liotta, the perhaps-inevitable joke about the possibility of dating a wasp and a hilariously gratuitous shot at the aviation skills of a certain well-known celebrity. Besides, having seen most of the upcoming crop of family-oriented films, I can tell you right now that it is better than most of the competition for the matinee crowds. (Of course, this says less about the quality of this film than it does about the gag-inducing ineptitude of those other films.) I guess the problem that I had with “Bee Movie” is that I went into it expecting a lot–the kind of genius idea that would spur Jerry Seinfeld to the big screen after years of presumably turning down entreaties from Hollywood in the wake of his astronomical television success–and all I got was just another fitfully amusing but generally uninspired cartoon. You will recall that the film had a fairly brilliant trailer that ran in theaters a few months ago in which Seinfeld and Steven Spielberg struggled to do a live-action version before choosing to go the animated route. If only the finished film had the humor and ingenuity of the trailer, it might have really been something worth watching instead of just another so-so movie destined to be forgotten by one and all the moment the next one comes along.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15577&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/02/07 16:10:44
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User Comments

5/15/13 Nico Bauer very good movie 5 stars
6/03/10 User Name Fun and forgettable. 3 stars
10/07/09 Joise Cotton is a goddess Pretty funny, better than I expected. 4 stars
9/09/08 PAUL SHORTT UNEVEN YET BASICALLY ENTERTAINING 3 stars
7/20/08 Shaun Wallner Boring not worth it! 2 stars
4/03/08 David Cohen It's hip, it's cool, it's sassy, too bad it's not funny! 2 stars
3/14/08 Charles Tatum Dull and awfully choppy, despite some funny lines 2 stars
3/02/08 Nanci Torres I only watch half and gave up 2 stars
12/13/07 William Goss Often gorgeous animation with slapdash puns and gags that earn a few chuckles. 3 stars
11/13/07 sir spam-a-lot What's sad is that "Bee Movie TV Juniors" and the original previews were the highlights.... 2 stars
11/07/07 mick my kid was bored shitless, very unsual for this kind of film? 1 stars
11/04/07 Total Crap I don't think so.. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Nov-2007 (PG)
  DVD: 11-Mar-2008

UK
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Australia
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