Archive for November, 2007

Enchanted (7/10)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 25, 2007 by Brandon

The trailers for this made it look like some awful desperate Disney attempt at making a movie without Pixar’s help by giving us the gimmicky premise of a classic Disney princess getting stuck in the real world, or more specifically, New York City. Going into this film, I had heard some good buzz about Amy Adams’s performance, but that was about it. I still wasn’t expecting anything particularly good, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. Enchanted is a film that is unbelievably cheesy in so many ways, but unlike some films that want to force sap down our throats, like Fred Claus (which, yes, I liked, but still), the sap in this one goes down like sweet honey.

 

The film opens with some breathtaking HANDDRAWN animation. Yes, that’s right, handdrawn, and it’s even more beautiful than the trailers promised. I sat there in a daze most of the time, simply marveling at how fantastically captivating it was. It recalls back to the days of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, with a touch of modern flourish to it like Tarzan and Mulan. Hardly a speck of CGI is to be found in the first ten minutes of the film, and I was so in love with this cartoon world that it was almost painful to be thrust into the real one. How could anything in the real world equal the magical wonder of these cartoons?

 

Amy Adams, that’s what, who played Jim’s temporary girlfriend in “The Office.” In that role she showed that she could play a relatively annoying character while still managing to elicit audience sympathy, especially when Jim broke up with her. In Enchanted, as a princess-to-be, Giselle, who is rudely and literally pushed into the real world by a jealous and protective stepmother of the prince she was going to marry, she channels the spirit of the classic Disney princesses effortlessly, like Snow White, Aurora, and Cinderella. No trace of the more modern Belle, Jasmine, and Jane are to be found. Her charm and effusive joy in the role are positively bewitching, and she more than anything else in the entire affair perfectly exemplifies the film’s title. There were times when her naivety got on my nerves a little, but this was only towards the beginning and I quickly warmed up to her. Perhaps what’s most impressive, though, is that she believably takes her character from a state of complete ridiculous happiness to a world-weary cartoon character in just an hour and forty-seven minutes, and she does it subtly and believably, without a hint of typical live-action Disney corniness. The rest of the cast isn’t as good as she is, but they are still very entertaining.

 

Patrick Dempsey as her live-action love interest is actually the worst of the bunch – he spends a lot of the time confused and can’t come even close to living up to Adams’s performance. To his credit, though, he doesn’t try to overact to compensate, but instead simply lets Adams shine. James Marsden as Prince Edward is a perfect channeling of the brain-dead one-note Prince Charmings of the classic Disney, without being too obvious about it. Freddie Prinze Jr., in Scooby-Doos 1 & 2, went completely the obvious route, emphasizing Fred’s stupidity to the point of being ridiculously annoying and completely unlikeable. Marsden’s Edward, by contrast, is simply and incredibly endearingly affable and clueless, a man on a quest who won’t be stopped by mere reason. I couldn’t help but always thinking of Steve Coogan, though, who has shown he can play a tongue-in-cheek character like no other, like in Around the World in 80 Days and Night at the Museum. As as second choice, though, Marsden was a good one. Susan Sarandon as the evil stepmother is of course fantastic, but when he finally makes it into the real world it seems like she has a few too many layers of makeup on, and it really distracts from her character, as her animated side had barely any discernible makeup on at all. Timothy Spall, who plays Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter series, plays a wonderfully confused evil henchman to Sarandon’s stepmother. Idina Menzel, who starred in the Broadway musical Wicked, plays Dempsey’s girlfriend in a role that seems like it was created merely to cause problems and add a bit of a cutesy ending. She’s a pretty face, but little else.

 

The soundtrack is also worth mentioning, as it is composed by the legendary Alan Menken, who did the music for such Disney classics as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Little Mermaid, and Hercules. Some of Enchanted’s songs are a little repetitive and self-consciously cheesy, but they fit the tone of the world so perfectly that it is a small complaint.

 

Enchanted is nothing revolutionary. The thing succumbs quite often to the conventions of the genre, and the only real difference between this flick and any other Disney animated princess feature is that some of it takes place in the real world. It’s not completely predictable, but it’s no Hitchcock, and that’s okay.One thing it does do, though, and in a surprisingly effective way, is all the while going along with all the cliches of a princess flick, it plays with them too, questioning what happily ever after actually means, and never really giving us solid answers. Sometimes its modern elements seemed fairly questionable, as in one scene where Dempsey walks in on Adams showering and a floating towel, carried by a couple of birds, is the only thing keeping her nude from from any kids in the audience. Why add a scene like this? Obviously, so Dempsey’s girlfriend could have something to be jealous of. Duh. But in a movie directed at kids, inclusion of this sort of material seems a bit out of place. Adams’s naivety in these situations, though, is positively endearing. In the end, Enchanted is a fun and better-than-expected Disney flick with some great performances, beautiful animation (and some pretty good CGI toward the end), and a story that succeeds in being cheesy and heartwarming without seemingly forcedly schmaltzy. It’s a movie any fan of the classic Disney princess films should see, and one that most will love.

Advertisements

Beowulf (6/10)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 25, 2007 by Brandon

Whenever reviewing a movie based on a book, I always do my best to not compare it too much to the text. There are things books can do that no movie can do, and there are things movies can do that no books can do. When watching, for example, a Harry Potter movie, I don’t spend the entire time thinking, “Oh, they cut that out! What?? They cut that out! Oh great, they cut that out!” When I do review a movie based on a book, I judge the movie based on its own merits and how well it captures the spirit or essence (if applicable) of the source material. Beowulf bears little resemblance except in names and a few spotty events here and there to the centuries-old epic poem that it comes from, but it is not this lack of similarity that ultimately fells Beowulf. The first half of the film is fairly solid, but the second half is full of random events strung together in an inexplicable order, and a finale that changes the tragedy of Beowulf into the typical grand action finale that a hero must endure in order to restore his pride, complete with an unbelievably cheesy “reunion” between a father and son.

The film opens with great reveling going in a King Hrothgar’s grand mead hall, which causes great emotional pain to the twisted monstrosity of Grendel, who lives in a cave a few miles from the hall. In a blind rage, Grendel screams his way down to the mead hall and literally tears and rips everybody that he can apart, so Hrotghar calls for a hero to come and defeat this monster. Five convenient minutes later, Beowulf shows up and claims he can dispatch this foul beast.

The greatest strength of Beowulf is its ridiculously good CGI. Gone are the dead eye days of motion-capture Polar Express, replaced with an invigoratingly and refreshingly real spectacle. Sometimes the characters move a little stiffly, though, their mouths are still not quite right, and their fingers seem to be composed of only one joint. This aside, though, it’s still a fantastic film to look at, and when you see it in 3D, which I did, it’s even more beautiful, and very well done. And apparently CGI blood is only worthy of a PG-13 rating, as opposed to real blood. A lot of blood hits the screen in Beowulf, and the titular hero seems obsessed with plunging his sword into monsters and and sliding the blade all the way down so that spatters of what appear to be crimson-colored mercury fly at us. It’s extremely cool looking, but sometimes the blood reminded me a little bit too much of 300 and the video game God of War. It’s not very realistic blood at all, and seems content to act as if were in space, congealing together in random blobs. But it still looks so darn cool – the action is breathless and fast-paced, and Grendel looks perfectly twistedly disgusting, a mass of flesh and bones seemingly put together by a drunk man, and his scream of pain is hauntingly mournful.

If only the story of Beowulf had kept up to par with the computer-generated effects, but fortunately for us a few noteworthy performances brighten up the dull story. Ray Winstone does an admirable job as Beowulf, but it’s nothing more than what is required, and it seems more like the role should have gone to Gerard Butler, who had poundingly loud charisma out the wazoo in 300. Anthony Hopkins is absolutely perfect as King Hrothgar, and Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother placed into a devastatingly beautiful body with gold liquid tastefully covering certain areas of her anatomy is absolutely stunning. John Malkovich brings a certain amount of color to a character who would have been just a whiny bore otherwise, and Sebastien Roche as Beowulf’s second in command shines out among all of these greats with some very interesting touches to his character. I actually found him the most fascinating out of the bunch.

And now the story. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The worst part about Beowulf is how we feel time passing. When Grendel attacks the mead hall, Beowulf comes onscreen just a few minutes later, giving us the impression that he was just a couple of blocks away as opposed to a couple of oceans away. Later on, in a time when decades are supposed to pass, the movie opts for a cop-out scene that is supposed to show us time passes, but which would have worked better with some kind of montage. Aside from the time problems, when the movie departs from the epic poem it gets very confused. Several things happen, one after the other, that caused me to shake my head in confusion, for these things are never really explained and seem merely to be placed there for convenience’s sake. And in the final moments of supposed glory, the message of the original text is diluted in an overdrawn final sequence that completely takes away the impact of who Beowulf truly is, transforming him into some kind of hero as opposed to the self-absorbed monster of pride that he really was. I know that I said that I don’t judge movies based on the books, but this final bit was just too much for me. It took away from the original text too much, and devolved into a typical predictable ending.

By the time the credits rolled, there had been more than few giggles in the audience at just how silly this story had been, and in essence, Beowulf is fairly silly, for one, because of its rating. At one point Beowulf has a nude fight with Grendel, and shadows conspicuously cover up his private parts here and there so that it didn’t have to be rated R. Supposedly we’re supposed to take this as some grand gesture of Beowulf meeting the monster as his level, but a lot of the people in the audience merely laughed, and I gotta tell ya, so did I. Why didn’t they make this film R? There were many places that would have been so much cooler if they had just been a bit more violent, and though Jolie was absolutely beautiful in her couple of scenes as Grendel’s mother, the golden-colored goo draped around her body also inspired a few laughs from the audience.

Beowulf is not a triumph, but it sure is damn fun to look at, and the action sequences are elaborately staged and ultimately fairly successful. Sometimes the story does come off as too cheesy, if a better director and writer could have been found, it could have been an epic that we could have taken seriously as opposed to the piece of fun Friday night trash that it is. It sure looks like really good trash, but there’s not much redeeming value behind it all. I will recommend it, but if you’re expecting some grand epic story of massive caliber, you will be disappointed. Ratatouille’s animation Oscar is still safely in the bag.

No Country for Old Men (9/10)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 18, 2007 by Brandon

The Coen Brothers’ latest outing is a captivating, pulse-pounding, and unabashedly dark quiet thriller, the kind where you’ll find yourself, more often than not, unintentionally holding your breath. It’s not a movie with many explosions, car chases, or gun fights. The terror and tension in this movie comes from the gritty and dark exploration into the depths of violence and its consequences, an exploration that refuses to be over the top in its analysis, but is explored almost clinically, and as a result, terrifyingly.

Josh Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss, a simple retired Texas man in 1980, who, while out one day in the vast desolate prairies of the South, almost literally stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad, with dead bodies strewn amidst some bullet-ridden trucks. He tracks some blood to a corpse underneath a tree, a corpse with a case that holds 2 million dollars in cash. He grabs the cash and heads home, stashing it under his trailer, not bothering to think even for a second that he may have just gotten himself in a heap of trouble. Tommy Lee Jones plays the local sheriff, Ed Tom Bell, a wizened veteran of sorts who gets tangled up with Moss’s problems with the money. Finally, Javier Bardem plays a man who is a psychopathic killer and the very embodiment of “creepyyyyy!!”, Anton Chigurh. We never find out exactly why he’s looking for the money. He just wants it, pure and simple, and will kill anyone who shows even a hint of getting in his way. He carries an oxygen tank and a kind of compressed-air gun that leave no clues behind. Soon the chase, and that’s No Country essentially boils down to, a chase, is on.

What sets this film apart from other extremely violent ones of its ilk is not the story itself, but rather its tone, the characters, and the grisly way the Coens deal with the violence in the film. As I mentioned above, the story is basically a chase story, but man, what a heck of a chase story it is.

Bardem’s Anton Chigurh is one of the scariest villains to grace the big screen in a long while. His calm demeanor, perverse pleasure, and complete lack of a sense of humor all dehumanize him to a point that should have rendered him a boring and one-note character, but the grim sense of purpose that haunts every last decision he makes, the scary sense that you know he has a reason for everything he does, even though it may be a ludicrous one, is downright horrifying. This is an actor who could make even “hello” sound like a death threat. His eyes can rarely be described as anything other than dead, but these dead eyes convey a heck of a lot more than many alive eyes found in films today.

Tommy Lee Jones gets some of the best lines of the movie, and even though he spends a lot of it on the sidelines, he steals every scene he’s in.

Josh Brolin’s simple country man, though, is by far the most interesting of the bunch. He’s not very smart; some would even call him stupid, but, in a weird, sort of way, he knows what’s right, and he knows how to handle himself. In a couple of scenes he puts together objects that almost make him seem like MacGyver. He is resourceful and intelligent, though not in the traditional sense, and he doesn’t turn into the typical average man who becomes a superhero when he’s in danger.

The woman who plays his wife, Kelly MacDonald, has the difficult job of playing against all these fantastic actors, but in a role where it initially seems like she’s just going to be some side character, she does a remarkable job of humanizing her role and making it much more than the “wife in distress.”

The film’s script is, by far, its greatest strength. It somehow manages to expertly balance very dark humor, brutal violence, deep characters, an actually very typical storyline, and rivetingly quiet chase scenes, such as when Moss is hiding in a hotel room and hears Anton coming down the hallway to get him. The camera angles, sound effects, and slow and deliberate movement of the characters all combine to make a scene that will have you sweating buckets in a scene that, if handled improperly, could quickly turn bland and cliche. The themes explored as well are also some very interesting ones, such as the nature of violence, its effects on the human soul, the importance of honesty, the acknowledgment of the passing of time, and how life is sometimes cruelly abrupt.

The film ends on a perfect haunting and honest note, and, along with many moments throughout the movie, left me with my jaw hanging open for several minutes. It’s just simply a great movie. My only complaint would be the script makes shortcuts occasionally. Anton, sometimes, seems a little too much of a superhuman, as in one scene where he virtually disappears into the night unexplainedly, which I didn’t buy that his character would do. Another time Josh Brolin’s character is fleeing from some people who abandon the chase far too easily. Other than that, “No Country for Old Men” is a riveting thriller that is definitely worth an Oscar nomination, if not a win. It’s a movie that makes you think, and not in the sense of being so confusing that you can’t figure it all out, but the sense that it’s all laid bare on the screen and yet you STILL can’t figure it all out, and, if nothing else, that alone makes it worth a movie ticket.

“Live long and prosper.” – Spock

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2007 by Brandon

Holy crap – this picture is freaky. If I had any reservations at all before about Quinto playing Spock, then they have just vanished with that picture, the first one to ever be released of Quinto as young Spock with the bowl cut, upped eyebrows, and pointy ears. If I didn’t know it was Quinto, I could be fooled into thinking it was a young Leonard Nimoy. Excellent choice, Abrams. EXCELLENT.

And also, a two-minute trailer of Jackie and Jet’s The Forbidden Kingdom can be seen right here if you simply click on the link. I think my heart actually stopped for a second when I saw both Chan and Li onscreen together for the first time in my over ten year history of being a martial arts fan and Chan fan in particular. One thing I am apprehensive about is that it seems there’s a lot of “floating on water” and “flying” types of martial arts, which I don’t think really suits Chan – he tried it in The Medallion and failed miserably. But I will try to have faith that their combined star power can carry this vehicle effectively. Goooooo Jackie and Jet!!!!!!!!!

V for Vendetta (Then: 9/10) (Now: 8/10)

Posted in Old Movie Review on November 17, 2007 by Brandon

Hey all, I’m doing some work over at my youtube account a lot, so I haven’t had much chance to update here a lot. Nothing too interesting in rumors going on now, Beowulf comes out tonight debuting with the Cloverfield trailer!!!!! But yeah, once I catch up over at youtube I’ll be able to breathe a little. Enjoy my old V for Vendetta review!

V for Vendetta 

V for Vendetta is just the right kind of film you would expect to have come from the minds of the Wachowski brothers, creators of the Matrix trilogy. (They wrote the screenplay for V, based off of a graphic novel.) It hearkens back to the day when we were all wowed by their perfectly put together Matrix. The first one, not the sequels. V for Vendetta combines the perfect amount of thought-provoking dialogue and plot while spicing it up with enough a**-kicking to make it a worthy action movie. This is the kind of movie that shows how graphic novels are not to be dismissed as mere comic books, but are a juicy fare of their own. It reminds us of how good adaptations can be wonderful, such as the brilliant History of Violence or the wow-inducing Sin City.

It opens with a scene in the early 21st century, that cuts back and forth between Natalie Portman’s character (Evey) and Hugo Weaving’s (V). Within ten minutes we are treated to a blindingly fast razzle-dazzle bit of action, barely lasting a minute, in which V rescues Evey from a couple of corrupt officers of the law. At this point there is a delightfully brain-tickling bit of alliteration in which V, speaking for a minute or so straight, inserts a word that begins with V every two or three words in his sentence. Not an easy thing to do with the letter V, or to speak it without making it look rehearsed, but Hugo Weaving pulls it off with his silky mastery of language that made him famous as Agent Smith.

This brings me to how great Hugo Weaving is in the movie. He is behind a mask, the mask of Guy Fawkes, a freedom figher/terrorist in England of many years ago. This mask is over his face the entire movie. Not once does he take it off. One would think that this would inhibit his acting skill, but it doesn’t even come close. He brilliantly weaves his voice to excellently communicate his character’s intent. He is undoubtedly the best thing about this movie.

The movie follows Evey’s journey as V takes her under his wing in his terrorist plots against the overly-oppressive British government, along the way, of course, brilliantly giving the audience questions about the nature of government, the rights of citizens, and so on. This is another of the high points of the movie, the way it forces to the viewer to put into question basic precepts that might not otherwise be even thought of. V for Vendetta’s basic idea can be summed up in one of V’s phrases: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” From this springs the entire plot and idea of the movie.

As for special effects, the movie is no replete with action scenes. In fact, I got far less action than I was expecting. But as I left the movie theatre, I found myself not really caring. The movie was a good movie, and I respected the filmmakers refusal to pander to trend in Hollywood today of filling up a movie with action so much that it overflows. V for Vendetta finds that delicate balance that a lot of movies do not: just enough action, and just enough dialogue. The action that you do see is quite breath-taking, bringing to the table highly stylized and cool innovations in special fx technology. The final fight scene is frenetic and flashy, and you’ll probably find yourself saying, “Wow.”

To close, V for Vendetta is perfect for people who are looking for a solid action flick with a plot that can hold up under pressure. It has a heart and a mind behind all the effects, a heart and a mind that force the viewer out of the couch-potato mindset of watching a movie simply to see some gore fly. And it is well worth a ten dollar movie ticket.

Lions for Lambs (5/10)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2007 by Brandon

Throughout this latest political outing from the usually reliable Robert Redford, his character is drinking from a Starbucks coffee cup. It’s an obviously empty cup. We never see any coffee, and at one point he refills it with coffee from a thermos, but the camera cuts away so it doesn’t have to show it. Canned slurping sounds emanage occasionally from the screen as he takes a drink, and he’s obviously holding it in a way so that it appears as if it would have coffee in it. “Lions for Lambs” is a lot like this coffee cup. An essentially empty vessel that the audience is supposed to believe contains the coffee of controversial ideas surrounding the war on terror, but in reality, is merely a bunch of canned sound bites that brings nothing new to the table. It’s brave filmmaking to basically shoot an entire movie in just under five rooms, but unfortunately this tactic doesn’t end up working too well.

Meryl Streep plays Janine Roth, a reporter who helped rocket Tom Cruise’s Jasper Irving to the top of Republican party fame years ago by publishing an article on him. To return the favor, he grants her an interview in which he reveals to her a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Robert Redford is Professor Stephen Malley, who teaches at a college “somewhere in California” and calls a student, Andrew Garfield as Todd Hayes, into his office for an early morning meeting filled with fake coffee and a warning to him that he has great potential and shouldn’t waste it. Meanwhile, over in Afghanistan, two soldiers, in a botched attempt to put Irving’s plan into action, get stranded on a plateau with Taliban members closing in on them over the course of the film. The movie bounces from the interview, to the professor’s office, to the two soldiers, sprinkling in some flashbacks that flesh out the army men’s backgrounds. It’s a format that could have worked, if the whole thing just didn’t feel so darn fake.

These characters live in a world where everybody talks as if they’re having revelations for the first time, when in fact the discussions that are happening are simply rehashed versions of debates that are going on all over the country right now. We don’t need a film to show us what we’re already discussing, and certainly not one where its characters are deluded individuals who are unseated at the slightest pithy comeback.

Nowhere in the film is this more apparent than between Roth and Irving. They spit out predictable dialogue and responses, and for a man of his supposed caliber, Irving is far too easily made uncomfortable when Roth points out obvious flaws with his newfound strategy. Irving will say something with utter conviction, then Roth will mutter something breezily, to which Irving will respond by blinking a couple of times, sweating, then swallowing and spitting out the party line. There’s nothing new going on here. Aside from this, the way Irving talks makes him sound like a carbon copy of George Bush, a none-too-subtle jab. Why make this so obvious? Why couldn’t Irving have been his own character instead of our President’s beliefs coalesced into human form? This is lazy writing if I’ve ever seen it.

The professor, Malley’s, discussion with his student does not feel as fake as Irving and Roth’s, but there is still a very clear sign of a script. These characters all say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, and until the end, nobody really has any comebacks that permanently unsettle the other. They all just babble on for an hour and a half, and what’s even worse, these babblings are intercut with extremely boring shots of the two stranded soldiers lying bleeding in the snow waiting to be either caught or shot. They are given some backstory, fortunately, for the flashbacks are far more interesting than the present story, and it is actually them that keeps the movie from being a complete heavy-handed failure.

The story behind the two boys and why exactly they choose to go to war is a fascinating one, but it is almost ruined by the hammer-on-the-head delivery of the script. Every single one of the actors delivers their line with fierce belief in what they are saying, and if what they said wasn’t so obvious, it would have worked. Not only does the deliver itself fail to convey the full import of what these characters are saying, but the thing that they are saying themselves are too prominent in what is going on in the world right to have any real relevance, which is why the story of the soldiers should have been the plot line that ran the course of the whole thing. This story involves the responsibility that everyone holds to help make the country’s situation overseas better, and how these two men chose to take this responsibility full on by joining the military. And, in the last twenty minutes, as other characters realize the hand that they have had in this travesty, the movie really comes into its own, sacrificing the obvious for something that’s a little bit more deep than the hour and ten minutes that had come before. There’s some nice little irony woven into the script and though Roth’s and Irving’s self-revelations are handled a little clumsily, they will speak powerfully to many people.

The performances are unquestionably great, especially Tom Cruise’s passionate portrayal of the Republican senator. He hasn’t been in anything since last year’s Mission: Impossible: III, and he’s still as fantastic an actor as ever. Meryl Streep is given a character who, in the latter half of the film, seems thrown for a loop every five minutes. As a result, she spends a lot of that time looking confused and disoriented, which is unfortunate, because she’s such a great actress. Robert Redford plays Malley with his reliable collected exterior that hides an interior in a fair amount of turmoil.

Overall, “Lions for Lambs” is a disappointment – a sad mock-up that doesn’t bring anything really new or intelligent to the conversation of what we should do in Iraq and Afghanistan, one that is content to do some preaching and leave in a hurry (the film is only an hour and twenty-eight minutes long). Its worst mistake is writing a script that seems to think it’s giving us a whole bunch of new revelations, when, as already mentioned, these materials have been presented to us time and again. The clumsy delivery doesn’t help either, as the phony dialogue and contrived character interactions reek of a couple of writers in a room desperately trying to slap something together that could help convey their message. “How are we gonna do this?” “Oh, I know, let’s just have people sit and talk!” I suppose I could see why they went for this – the conversations among Irving, Roth, and Malley are a mirror to a lot of the conversations going on in the U.S. today, but simply a mirror does not a good movie make. For good filmmaking, you need something fresh and new delivered in a creative manner, and aside from the occasional glimmer of something more, “Lions for Lambs” remains little more than that empty coffee cup.

Bee Movie (4/10)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9, 2007 by Brandon

 

I read a review awhile back with Jerry Seinfeld, on his new movie about the secret life of bees. In it, he stated that he put the lockdown on bee puns in the film, to which I gave pleasant sigh of relief. In my opinion, puns are all very well and good, but using them too much and it practically destroys a story, especially if it doesn’t fit. I don’t know what script Jerry Seinfeld thought he was reading, but it certainly wasn’t the one of the film I watched last night. The first ten or fifteen minutes are chock full of bee puns that couldn’t seem to stop, including an unrelated one where Barry (voiced by Seinfeld) mutters to himself at the graduation ceremony, “There’s a lot of pomp here…under the circumstances.” What?? Fortunately, after awhile, the puns seem to let up, but the movie itself never manages to take off from a quiet hovering position.

 

Barry B. Benson is a young bee who has just graduated from Bee School and is ready to pick the job he will have for the rest of his life, accompanied by his good friend Adam Flayman, voiced congenially by Matthew Broderick. Upon realizing he will have this same job for the rest of his life, though, Barry has second thoughts and manages to escape the hive along with a flying troop of pollinating and nectar-collecting bees, soon running into a heap of trouble as he breaks bee law and talks to humans.

 

The movie’s biggest problem is how much it can’t over the fact that it’s a movie about bees. Every couple of minutes it makes some kind of self-conscious remark, as if it had to physically grab the eyelid and push it down to make a wink at the camera. If they wanted to know how to make an insect movie, they should have taken a cue from “Antz” and “a Bug’s Life,” both amazing films that were unique and different in their own ways and managed to come up with compelling storylines that didn’t constantly dwell on the fact that they were about ants. Neither of these movies really featured humans at all either, whereas Bee Movie does, and though this could have been a successful attempt at being different, for the most part, it doesn’t really work.

 

There is zero sense of scale or grandeur, or even any real awe at the humans when the bees finally encounter them. Remember in “Antz”, where Z and Bala grabbed onto a shoelace and went zooming through the air? It was a spectacular shot, made all the more grand by the soaring music and slow graceful movement. Nothing of that spectacular awe exists in “Bee Movie.” The humans’ reactions to a talking bee vary too widely as well, always contrived to fit the situation. When Vanessa (voiced predictably and unimpressively by Renee Zellwegger)’s boyfriend Ken (voiced by Patrick Warburton in the film’s most entertaining moments, which thankfully take full advantage of the film’s innate ridiculous quality, especially when he yells, “WHY DOES YOGURT NIGHT HAVE TO BE SO DIFFICULT??”) first meets Barry, he freaks out and tries maniacally to kill him, but the next time he meets him he’s just nonchalant about it. Later on in the film, when Barry becomes famous, some humans recognize him and treat him with unimpressed familiarity, while others flip out and faint in the surprise that a bee is acting. One time, even before Barry is famous, a janitor duels with him with a push pin, never once wondering why a bee is speaking to him. The script can’t decide what kind of world it lives in – fantasy or reality. If the reactions among the different humans had varied even just a little less, the suspension of disbelief would have been much easier. As it is, it’s just completely ludicrous. Sometimes I just sat there in my seat, thinking, “Wait, how did we get here? This makes no sense!!”

 

The animation is very competent, but it’s candy-coated, layered in textures of CGI sugar that steal any real life it may have had. All of the humans are plastic and though they are many different shapes, it can’t hide that they are all essentially the same. Vanessa is a supposedly adorable brunette, but she’s so bubbly perfect and blah that I think I yawned every time she was onscreen. Sometimes the animation has its moments, such as when Barry exits the hive. By then we have lived ten or fifteen minutes inside the hive, where everything is dominated by the soft orange glow from the honey, so when we exit, the bright greens and purples assault us with their brilliance. This is the best moment of the film – everything else is just normal and expected, even though it can be fun to look at.

 

Another weakness of the film is its annoying cleverness with a trademark Seinfeldian twist, which does not fit the tone of the movie at all. Except for one or two moments, the film is basically G-rated. How does this fit Jerry Seinfeld? Why didn’t they make the movie PG-13? The tone of the film is too juvenile and kiddy to properly showcase Seinfeld. Other times Seinfeld’s bloated ego makes it onscreen, such as when Barry explains how he learned to speak. “Mama, Dada, honey, you pick it up” and also the “pomp and circumstance” quote I mentioned earlier. Other spots of annoying cleverness include a segment where Barry discovers, “Ray Liotta Private Select Honey” and guest stars on “Larry King Bee Live,” commenting on how in the human world they have a Larry King too. The Ray Liotta bit is taken one step too far, and the Larry King section seems kind of out of place. Some spot-on satire sneaks in here and there, though, thankfully, but some awfully bad moments as well, such as when Barry flies out of the hive, sees a box kite, and yells, “box kite!” and when he sees flowers, he yells, “fa-loow-wahs!” Um, can I ask why?

 

Throughout this entire movie, I was torn between giving it a very poor rating and giving it a pretty generous rating, but upon leaving the movie I really could not find much to like about it. It was fun to watch occasionally, there some moments of inspired hilarity, but the main thought I had was, “THIS is what Jerry Seinfeld chose to make? THIS movie?” Of all films to make it had to be this one? There is literally nothing special about it at all, save for its sheer blandness. Bee Movie is solidly mediocre, not the kind of thing that many people will find themselves loathing, but not one which will find many devoted fans, either. It never seems to know what to do with itself. The movie starts out with one plot, moves to another, then another, then another, and finally one was so outrageous I just sat there shaking my head. It feels like it was an hour and fifty minutes instead of an hour and thirty. It seems like the idea for this movie happened and then nobody bothered to expand on it till the last minute. The original trailers that featured live action costumes and sets would have made a better film than this. It just feels like an incomplete idea from beginning to end, and if Seinfeld had not been involved in this production, you can bet it would have flopped. And for me, this is not enough for a good recommendation.