Bee Movie is almost completely a Jerry Seinfeld creation. The idea apparently came out of a conversation the comedian had over dinner with Steven Spielberg. From the simple concept of a film about bees called Bee Movie, Seinfeld teamed with his long-term collaborator Spike Feresten. Together they created a rather amusing world where bees can talk and live in a human-like society dedicated to the production of honey. I’ll admit that while I often enjoyed the Seinfeld television series, I was one of those that never really got it. On the surface a lot of it was funny, so I watched it, but I can’t really call myself a true fan of the series or the comedy of Jerry Seinfeld. Pretty much however you might have felt about the show will carry over to Bee Movie. The entire film reflects pure Seinfeld in the characters and his somewhat trademark observations on life. It is that element that might have lessened the overall enjoyment for me. Seinfeld’s bee world is so much like his television or stand-up world that I found it hard to immerse myself into the story. No question there were some clever ideas at work here, but it sure seemed like somewhere along the way someone settled for mediocrity.
The story has a lot of potential. Barry (Seinfeld) is a young bee about to embark on his adult life of working for the hive’s honey business. He is about to select his life job when the call of the world beyond the hive finds him joining a group of “pollen jocks” that are the select few who actually leave the hive to collect pollen. Once on the outside, he finds himself separated from the squad and at the mercy of Ken (Warburton) who hates bees, brought on somewhat by a sting allergy. Just as Barry’s hopes, and his body, are about to be crushed under the weight of some heavy boots, Barry is saved by Ken’s girlfriend, Vanessa (Zellweger). Compelled by gratitude Barry breaks the first law of bees and talks to the girl. In Vanessa he finds a kindred spirit and fantasizes about having a relationship. The courtship is sidetracked once Barry learns that humans are exploiting bees to consume their honey. He decides to file suit against humanity to return the rights of honey to the bees. An amusing courtroom scene anchored by John Goodman’s performance as the attorney for the honey makers takes over the plot. The victory turns out to not be such a good thing even for the bees, and a strong environmental message brings the silly film to a close. Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the story was using Ray Liotta to play himself, satirizing the plethora of celebrity food products. He’s pretty much a nemesis in the film that takes advantage of his often mocked Goodfellas laugh.
The animation is perhaps some of the best to come out of Dreamworks yet. The quality still doesn’t measure up to the Pixar productions, but it is a sweet looking production nonetheless. As you might expect, there’s a lot of yellow and black, which tends to mute the color palette a bit. Still, colors are often bright and shiny enough to keep the kids’ attention. There’s a great amount of detail to be found, and elements like the bee fur and honey provide some sweet technological showing off. The humans are portrayed pretty badly, however, particularly faces. Both Vanessa and Ken seem to change in appearance a bit throughout the film, making it difficult at times to identify them. There is also a complete sense of lifelessness in the eyes of the human characters. There is far better definition and emotional range to be found in the bees. Perhaps there is an element of an intentional subtle message at play here. Speaking of messages, I’m not sure it was necessary to “take out” Winnie The Pooh, and Piglet too.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is almost as impressive as the video. I was impressed with the buzz of activity the sound field was able to convey, particularly inside the hive. There are some fine musical cues that appear well placed and only add to the sweeping visuals that will certainly captivate your young ones. Dialog is crisp and clean and always perfectly placed.
There is an audio commentary by Jerry Seinfeld and many other folks along the way. Jerry talks, sometimes a lot, without really saying a whole lot. It’s distracting and only enjoyable if you’re a fan.
This 2 disc edition of Bee Movie is loaded with some extras for your enjoyment.
Disc one contains the film along with its audio commentary. There are a few other extras included here as well:
Deleted Scenes and Alternate Endings: These extra scenes are provided using storyboards to replace animation that was never completed. Many of the endings are redundant, rehashing much of the same dialog and storyboards. It really gets tiresome after awhile
Inside The Hive – Cast Of Bee Movie: At 14 minutes this is pretty much the longest feature. We see a lot of actors and crew members having a great time behind the microphones. There was a little too much Seinfeld idolizing as we hear over and over again just how much of a coup it was to get Seinfeld to do this film.
Disc 2 contains the following:
Tech Of Bee Movie: There is obviously a promo contract between Dreamworks and computer companies HP and AMD. Too much of this piece is rehashing the film’s plot and how great it was to have Jerry. What remained was crew members singing the praises of HP and AMD instead of actually demonstrating much of the process used to make the film.
Meet Barry B. Benson: This interactive feature allows you to pick from a series of questions to ask Barry, which he in turn answers.
Music Video: Kids and a school bus all dressed like bees invade
Dreamworks Animation Video Jukebox: You get to view a musical clip from several dreamworks films including Flushed Away, Over The Hedge, and the other two Shrek films.
Bee Movie will work with your kids, but I don’t expect this film will do for bees what Finding Nemo did for fish, except maybe get a few extra kids stung trying to talk to Barry. If you have kids, you are likely planning to buy, because if your kids do like it they will never be content with the limited viewings a rental will allow for. I’d give the film “a perfect report card. All B’s”.