Bee Movie

Reviewed By Lybarger
Posted 11/02/07 21:00:00

"Michael Richards' onstage breakdown was funnier than Seinfeld's new movie."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Bees rarely stand out from each other. But that doesn't mean that movies made about them have to lack personality. "Bee Movie" simply follows the animated herd, taking elements from "Antz," "A Bug's Life" and "Happy Feet" without doing anything new or interesting. Unless your idea of wit is an unrelenting stream of groan-inducing insect puns, "Bee Movie" offers little more than buzzkill.

Occasionally, animated films can take leftover storylines and make them seem fresh, the way bees can turn pollen into honey. For example, "A Bug's Life" is an entertaining remake of Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai." With "Bee Movie," the hackneyed tale about a misfit drone named Barry (voiced by Jerry Seinfeld) never really comes into its own.

Barry and his pal Adan (Matthew Broderick) have just graduated the bee-equivalent of school (it's been a strenuous three days). Now they have to decide what to do with the rest of their short, accelerated lives. After millions of years, the little critters haven't changed much and wind up stuck in the same jobs for the rest of their lives.

Barry wants to see what life is like outside the hive. It is scarier than he imagines (rain and tennis balls aren't so innocuous to tiny bees), but he finds a human florist named Vanessa Bloome (Renée Zellwegger) who becomes his friend.

Through Vanessa, Barry discovers that humans have been stealing the bees’ honey and haven’t been paying them for their labors. He then launches a massive lawsuit against the companies who’ve gotten rich off of bees. This pits him against a wily corporate attorney (John Goodman) and Vanessa’s jealous boyfriend Ken (Patrick Warburton).

While the idea of bees taking on human ogres might seem intriguing, the script by Seinfeld and three other writers is sloppy and undercooked. The quartet seems to have toiled into the wee hours of the night coming up with wisecracks that would have been rejected from “Seinfeld.” During his graduation, Barry muses, “That’s a lot of pomp, under the circumstances.”

There’s an excess of celebrity voice cameos, but none are particularly amusing. Larry King, as “Bee Larry King,” has already exceeded his quota of dull bit appearances, and only Chris Rock, as a feisty mosquito, is genuinely amusing.

Seinfeld is an undeniably talented comic, but his humor works better in half-hour doses. Listening to him whine for 90 minutes gets tiresome quickly.

Directors Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith appear to have lots of money at their disposal. The settings are elaborate and busy. Unfortunately, the character designs are visually dull and unengaging. Vanessa, in particular, has the dead eyes that plague most computer-generated humans in cartoons.

“Bee Movie” is plagued by a “how hard can it be” aesthetic. Seinfeld and his collaborators used to boast that their classic sitcom was a “show about nothing.” In a market already saturated with wittier and more sincerely crafted computer animated films, Seinfeld might want to think twice about dismissing substance.

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