Bee Movie Review

Nov 02, 2007 | 4:28am EDT

Unlike a certain star/co-writer/producer’s namesake sitcom  Bee Movie is not about nothing. When we first meet Barry B. Benson (voice of Jerry Seinfeld) he is about to graduate to a full-blown honey-making bumblebee—class of 9:15! But he soon learns that the nectar of bees’ labor isn’t doing all the good he’d always imagined. For his first venture out of the hive Barry hitches a ride with the “pollen jocks” to do some work on a sunflower. Entranced by what he thinks is a flower Barry buzzes his way down and grabs hold—only to discover that it is a tennis ball to which he is now stuck. After being catapulted to freedom from the ball’s fuzz and ricocheting throughout all of Manhattan he winds up in an apartment belonging to Vanessa (voice of Renee Zellweger) and her boyfriend Ken (voice of Patrick Warburton). Vanessa saves Barry from Ken’s wrath which leads to a long-lasting friendship between them even though Barry committed the sin of talking to a human. However Barry’s eyes become wide open to her fellow humans’ frivolous extraction and usage of honey and vows to sue humankind—and he wins. But the victory becomes bittersweet and a hard-learned lesson for Barry on how honey in a way makes the world go ‘round. Man this Seinfeld guy really has some friends in high places! Seemingly his whole Hollywood Rolodex laid down some vocals for Bee Movie even though you’ll only recognize the ones who "play" themselves—and of course Chris Rock. The comic and Seinfeld crony whose high voice and energy are perfect for animation is probably the best of the bunch playing a mosquito in peril named Mooseblood. But the A-list voices don’t end there: Matthew Broderick Oprah Larry Miller Megan Mullally  Rip Torn and Michael Richards are among the heard but not seen while Sting  Ray Liotta and Larry King hilariously poke fun at their flesh-and-blood selves. Seinfeld himself however is often hit-or-miss as the animated protagonist. He’s funniest when going on a somewhat tangential rant as Barry tends to do but delivering straight lines and tangibility his target audience can relate to are a bit of a stretch. Zellweger’s acting style while great in live action is even less fit for animation. As Barry’s friend with hints of bee-human romance she is rather bland and even seems out of sync at times with her character’s expressions. Perhaps we’ve just been spoiled by the Ratatouilles of the animated-film world but Bee Movie has nothing on the field’s leaders. You’d expect a little something more from Seinfeld who co-wrote (with Spike Feresten  Barry Marder and Andy Robin) produced and altogether shepherded Bee—maybe a “What’s the deal with…?” nod to his stand-up faithful or more making-a-fuss-over-nothing rants or just overall edgier comedy—but he goes straight for the tyke demographic and his style doesn’t quite seem to be on children’s wavelength. It’s often funny with occasionally sharp jibes on the animal kingdom (is there any other kind of premise for an animated movie these days?) but rarely witty. And when the movie takes a Happy Feet-like preachy twist towards the end it’ll be too sappy-sweet for even the ones in your lap. Visually directors Steve Hickner and Simon Smith’s movie doesn’t really approach Pixar’s work but they make up for it with fun rollercoaster routes through the skies and skyscrapers of Manhattan. All in all Bee Movie’s large team of writers and directors scrape together enough for kids to enjoy but kids these days have come to expect more than just “enough” from their animated movies.

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