"Well, there's Bee Columbus, Bee Ghandi, even Bee-Jesus."
In a contemporary cinematic age dominated by animated films such as Ratatouille, Shrek, Surf's Up and Finding Nemo among countless others, Bee Movie is unfortunately a tremendous disappointment. Even more tragic is that it marks the first major project since Jerry Seinfeld's long-running TV show came to an inevitable conclusion. No-one would have expected Seinfeld to make his return to the screen with an animated children's film, but regrettably that's how things transpired. Jerry Seinfeld has pretty much flown beneath the radar until Bee Movie which was written and produced by Seinfeld, as well as featuring the actor as the chief voice talent. Standard for an animated production, the film achieved an admirable box office sum and earned well over $100 million. Considering the main person involved in Bee Movie, it's pretty safe to assume that much of its success was due to the return of Seinfeld to the screen and his fans that desired more Seinfeld humour in their system.
The central character of the piece is a small bee named Barry B. Benson (voiced by Seinfeld): a college graduate whose about to join the workforce where he will remain until death. After a tour of the local honey factory, Barry reaches the conclusion that he doesn't wish to conform to the usual bee tradition of choosing the customary job of a position in the Honex industry that manufactures honey. Instead Barry opts to join the 'pollen jocks' who venture out of the hive and into the human world in search of pollen and nectar. However this journey into the outside world proves to be far more dangerous when he inadvertently gets involved in a tennis match, and meets quirky young florist Vanessa (voiced by Zellweger). Barry breaks the cardinal rule of beeing a bee (excuse the obvious pun/spelling error): don't talk to a human. He begins rebelling against the customary bee laws, but this rebellion takes an unlikely turn when he realises humans are exploiting bees for their honey for the worldwide market. Barry takes it upon himself to take legal action against the humans and free his fellow bees from oppression.
Bee Movie comes from the same studio that brought the world the amazing animated film Shrek. At times, it's hard to evoke this thought. On the one hand the film looks very cute: the animation is solid, the production design is creative and the laughs are cute. Unfortunately, despite all this the film suffers from a weak storyline that is so quintessentially Seinfeld that it's a wonder why it never surfaced in his TV show. There are also dreadful problems with the script. Seinfeld launched his career with a TV show that earned his masses of adult fans. Understandably, adults are going to want to see the triumphant return of the man. However the film cannot find its audience. The script is too watered down for the adults (to attain a G rating for maximum box office profits), while the jokes are generally too adult-ish for the kids to comprehend! After the kids have a giggle at the novelty of bees talking, they'll be lost in their search for something else they may find slightly amusing. The best animated films stock quality laughs for different audiences. With Bee Movie, the laughs are aimed squarely at adults who will be bored at the watered down language and the pretty routine situations customary for an animated film.
Admittedly, there are a number of quality laughs that slightly overshadow the weak storyline. Many of these laughs are attributed to the amazing actors in the cast. Chris Rock, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson and several others are part of the film's voice cast. However many of these actors are criminally underused. Chris Rock, for example, is featured twice. His scenes are absolutely side-splitting...and yet he's allocated about 4-5 minutes of screen time. John Goodman's quirky lawyer is another underused character. Basically everyone except for Jerry Seinfeld is underused. Hardly surprising though, because Seinfeld did write the script himself. With so many big names and minimal screen time for all of them, there doesn't appear to be much of a point, does there? Even worse, the movie probably won't appeal much to adults who would recognise the voices, because the film is reasonably customary and predictable. If you're a fan of Jerry Seinfeld's unique deadpan humour, that's precisely the humour we get. Yet it isn't the same in a cartoon, where the characters appear to lack any expression or animation (excuse the intended pun). Only Chris Rock and John Goodman seem to deliver any expression at all. The other voices are virtually interchangeable. You could place a different actor in each role and the film would be about as funny.
In defence of the film, there are a few commendable messages pertaining to being one's self, being tolerant of others, being accepting of other people's ideas, and seeking personal independence. And I did smile on multiple occasions. The humour is watered down, but there are a number of memorable laughs that are extremely easy to quote. The appearance of Winnie the Pooh is a key scene that I'm referring to. Also Chris Rock's line regarding lawyers...that's all very funny; however this quality is never sustained enough to conceal a disappointing plot branched off a superb concept. Bee Movie simply cannot hold its desired audience because its desired audience is never clear! Both the kids and adults may find a few laughs, but in between these laughs they'll be staring at their watch, wondering when it will be over. That's a bad sign when we're talking about a brisk 90-minute animated film!