"Bee Movie" has the distinction of being the first major project executed by Jerry Seinfeld since the conclusion of that greatest of great sitcoms "Seinfeld" in 1998.
And in all honesty, I'm a little ticked off. Oh, it's not because of the movie. It's a fun film that we'll get to in a moment.
No, with "Bee Movie" we're reminded just how funny, entertaining, and inventive Seinfeld is. And then the realization comes that he has denied us any new material for almost a decade, leaving us to subside off of "Seinfeld" reruns and DVDs. It's like Harper Lee just writing a single perfect novel and never giving us anything more. How dare you deny us your talent!
Seinfeld's comedic gifts are very much on display in "Bee Movie," a film from DreamWorks Animation that reminds us of the company's first foray into computer animated features. In the same year that "Seinfeld" concluded Dreamworks released "Antz," an exciting computer animated film focusing on an individualist ant - Z, a character infused with the personality of his voice actor, Woody Allen - rebelling against the extreme conformity of hive life. "Bee Movie" takes this theme, style, and general formula and applies it to bees.
Barry B Benson (Seinfeld) has just graduated from bee college with his friend Adam Flayman (Matthew Broderick) and faces the prospect of having to pick one job for the rest of his life. (And a job without a single day off!) Similar to Z in "Antz," Barry's mind is blown when he ventures outside the hive. Where Z joined the soldier ants in a battle against termites, Barry joins the "pollen jocks" (flashy flyboys who collect nectar) and emerges into the colorful, dangerous world of Manhattan.
A series of events separate Barry from his fellow bees and he ends up stumbling into the apartment of Vanessa Bloome, a kindly florist who saves Barry from Ken (Patrick Warburton, basically reprising his character Puddy from "Seinfeld.")
It's at this point that "Bee Movie" takes the decisive, creative turn that separates it from other talking animal and insect movies. Grateful for saving his life Barry breaks a bee law by talking to a human, approaching Vanessa and thanking her. And lo and behold - bees and humans can talk to each other. Very cool.
The pair begin to develop a friendship with Barry learning more about the human world. One day the two go to a grocery store and Barry makes a startling discovery: humans sell and eat honey. Or, as Barry puts it, steal honey. Barry investigates this most troubling of realizations and is horrified when he arrives at a honey farm and sees bees kept as slaves, their honey stolen when they are blasted with smoke.
And so Barry - with the help of Vanessa - files a lawsuit against several food corporations for stealing bees' honey.
Up until this point and through the trial, the film is gangbusters. You've got these great, likable characters and an exciting visual landscape. It's just so fun and bright. Some "Finding Nemo" devotees might disagree but "Bee Movie" is perhaps the most successful of the Pixar and DreamWorks computer animated films when it comes to providing an exhilarating visual experience. The depiction of the inner-workings of the bee hive and the rush of bee flight are triumphs.
With the conclusion of the trial, the film really takes a significant plunge plot wise - which, unfortunately, I cannot be too specific about lest I reveal too much and spoil the movie. What happened is the screenwriters and directors basically painted themselves into a corner. The scenario they create for themselves is so clumsy and nonsensical.
I mean it's a matter of how much and what kind of silliness one is willing to accept. The climax that the filmmakers engineer is just so strange, ridiculous, and contrived. They're like college students who are really nailing an essay test when they all of a sudden discover they only have a few minutes left to finish. The film is fresh and lively for most of it and then they have to resort to cinematic clichés and the lazy filmmaker's playbook.
And that's really too bad but it's far from a lethal blow to the film's overall success. It's the difference between good and great and a B and an A but it absolutely is not the difference between to see or not to see. While "Bee Movie" may not be an immediate and required must see, I would recommend catching it on the big screen if you do plan on seeing it so you can take advantage of the fantastic world the filmmakers have created to match Seinfeld's wit.
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