Set in a humanized society of a beehive and a color-corrected world of humans, Jerry Seinfeld's pet project, Bee Movie, is an unabashedly environment-conscious film. There is nothing wrong with message films, if it's written well. Unfortunately, Bee Movie isn't one of those.
Barry Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) is a bored honeybee that, upon entering the work force, is terrified by the idea that he's going to be stuck doing the same job for the rest of his short life. Seeking adventure, he briefly joins the rank of the "Pollen Jocks" and spends a day in the human world. There, he meets beautiful human Vanessa Bloom (Renée Zellweger), a kind florist/environmentalist who would not even hurt a mosquito. Barry falls in love with the human against the rules, skirts his duties, and becomes ostracized by his peers.
Then Barry discovers that humans have been keeping bees in horrible conditions, drugging them, and "stealing" honey from the bees. This becomes Barry's cause and he vows to take on the humans and get back the honey. His plans soon backfires as the bees find no reason to work anymore.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld) produces, acts and writes the movie. Seinfeld has a very distinctive, nasal, whiny voice, and that either significantly enhances or hinders the characterization of a tiny sweater-wearing bee, depending on how you like his famous voice. To me, he's a distraction. The problem is that everywhere you go, you hear and see Seinfeld the comedian, and not a bee -- the two don't quite jell. After while, you kind of get annoyed.
Not to mention that, despite the huge cast of voices, Bee Movie is basically a one-man show. The whole story hinges on Barry's story line. Everyone else, including Renée Zellweger (Miss Potter), is only a supporting player. After a while, you rather can't hear the other voices except Jerry Seinfeld's. Zellweger does her best injecting her brand of spunky cuteness to the character of Vanessa. The "love" angle of the relationship between her and the bee is a bit creepy as well. Matthew Broderick (The Producers) seems to have a little fun playing Barry's best friend, the geeky bee Adam. Patrick Warburton (Underdog) is hilarious as Vanessa's meathead boyfriend, and John Goodman (Evan Almighty) is deliciously slimy as the corporate lawyer who tries to, literally, squash the bees.
The huge cast also includes Chris Rock as a mosquito, Kathy Bates and Barry Levinson as Barry's parents, Oprah Winfrey as Judge Bumbleton. Other cameos include Larry King, Ray Liotta, Sting, Megan Mullally, Rip Torn, and Michael Richards.
Written by Jerry Seinfeld and his team, the script boasts an incoherent plot that is schizophrenic even for a kids' flick. It's not that it's difficult to follow the story -- it actually has a single thread that focuses mostly on Barry the bee -- but the plot jumps from one thing to another, almost on a whim. It has the attention span of its target audiences: children aged 5 and up. The jokes and sight gags come fast and furious; while there are a few genuine chuckles, the jokes just aren't that funny. Jerry Seinfeld's signature brand of dry, irrelevant humor seems to be amiss here; instead, he's following DreamWorks' lead in dumping more in-jokes and pop culture references in the vein of Shrek III. The result is a story that is only mildly amusing to the adults.
Don't get me wrong. The movie is probably a delight for the kiddies. Bright with primary colors and shapes, the animation is exciting and pleasing to the eyes. The frantic pace and slapstick actions definitely would please the youngsters. I give them kudos for not including any bathroom or burp jokes. There's a huge logic leap, however, that may be difficult for the adults to fully enjoy it: Talking bees? Bees that wear sweaters and drink coffee? It is fine if the film is set entirely in a humanized world of bees, but when you mix the bees with the human world, you've got a problem with suspension of disbelief, even for a cartoon. Older children who have studied insects may find the story incredulous as well -- there are a lot of misinformation and inconsistencies, thus diluting its environmental messages.
So, while the film is entertaining for young children, it is a huge disappointment considering how much promotion Jerry Seinfeld and DreamWorks have put forth. It's not a complete disaster, but Ratatouille it is not. With their penchant for pop cultures and potty humor, the folks at DreamWorks seem to be going down a path that caters to the lowest common denominator of their audiences, and that is alarming. As an adult, I started to get bored by Act II. With that in mind, I don't think I can even give it a Bee.
Stars: Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson, Larry King Ray Liotta, Sting, Oprah Winfrey
Directors: Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith
Writers: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marden, Andy Robin
MPAA Rating: PG for mild suggestive humor, and brief depiction of smoking
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 7
Animation – 8
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 6.7 out of 10