Bee Movie (4/10)

 

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.

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4 Responses to “Bee Movie (4/10)”

  1. I don’t get it.

    BeeMovie outgrossed American Gangster. However, American Gangster outgrossed Lions for Lambs.

    In your score card BeeMOvie was 4/10 and Lions 5/10. Is there a review of American Gangster anywhere around?

    BTW, I am not making any point. Just commenting out loud 🙂

    Cheers!

  2. I don’t think box office is a good indication of quality, unless it gets up in the one billion dollar range. Other than that, my reviews really don’t judge box office, only really what I believe to be quality.

    Also, my review of American Gangster wasn’t posted up here because I wrote it for my student newspaper. You can find it right below, actually. Simply click on the link.
    http://thefalcononline.com/story/6232

    Thank you for the comment!!!

  3. Hodepine Says:

    Hi.

    I saw this on bluray this morning with my kid, and while googling for why the movie picks on Ray Liotta in the degree that it does, I came across your blog.

    Just to answer some of you questions in the blog; why does he say box dragon and flooowers in the beginning? Probably cause mr. Bee has his first time out of the hive, and is overwhelmed by the sights.

    And why didn’t he make it PG-13? I read someplace that he made the movie for his children. So I guess that’s his “primary” target audience.

    I’ll agree the last part was a bit far fetched, but it’s a movie with talking bees, so the whole argument if a bee can fly a plane or not seems a bit like wasted time.

    Both the kid and I found the movie entertaining, I’d give it at least a 7/10. 4 is harsh, in my opinion.

  4. Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” is featured in the movie Watchmen the soundtrack is so well suited to the movie. Check out their facebook page http://tinyurl.com/facebook-watchmen

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