- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © DreamWorks Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
here is no other way to say it: “Bee Movie” is shockingly unfunny. The plot is one part “A Bug’s Life,” and one part… courtroom drama. Because, you know, courtroom dramas are so funny. It’s surprising that Jerry Seinfeld, the movie’s star, had a hand in writing the story, because everything about it is lazy, lazy, lazy. The jokes are bad (the puns are worse), the voice direction is pitiful, and logic is thrown out the window in order for the third act to even exist.
Seinfeld is the voice of Barry B. Benson, a bee who’s fraught with indecision over what to do with the rest of his life upon graduation, since whatever he chooses will be what he does for the rest of his life. A group of pollen jockeys takes Barry on a mission to pollinate flowers, but Barry is separated from the group in a storm and finds shelter in a flower bed outside an apartment window. The owner of the flower bed, a florist named Vanessa (Renée Zellweger), saves Barry’s life when her boyfriend Ken (Patrick Warburton) tries to squish him, and the two strike up a friendship. When Barry discovers the amount of honey that humans consume, he resents them for forcing bees to work the grueling hours they must work in order to survive, and he sues the entire human race on behalf of bees for the right to keep the honey for themselves.
Let me get this straight: the premise for an animated comedy is a bee that sues the human race for the rights to honey? Sorry, but that just isn’t funny. It only seems to serve as an excuse to bring to the witness stand… Sting! Wackity schmackity doo! You might also be asking yourself: how do Barry and Vanessa communicate? That’s easy. Bees can actually speak English, you see. It’s just that there is a bee law stating that they’re not supposed to talk to humans. Ye gods. That’s not even trying, right there. Removing the language barrier between species is the work of a writer who can’t be bothered to come up with a form of communication that might make sense in the real world. The makers of “Ratatouille” may have made Remy the rat far smarter than any of his species will ever know, but they still had the common sense to make sure he couldn’t speak English, for crying out loud.
I’ve always felt that people who review movies tend to gloss over voice direction in animated features, but with any luck, “Bee Movie” will change that. The voice direction here is simply awful. Matthew Broderick reads his lines as if he has a plane to catch. Warburton, a very funny voice talent (his work in “The Emperor’s New Groove” is Brando in “Streetcar” compared to this), does nothing but scream at the top of his lungs. Even Zellweger, a typically reliable actress, is off her game here. There is no rhythm whatsoever to the dialogue, and there is far, far too much exposition. Seinfeld spends half the movie talking to himself for no real reason other than to make sure the audience knows what he’s thinking (we knew, thank you). Lastly, there is the fact that a florist actually backs a bee’s plan to work less. They, of all people, should know the repercussions of such an event, and yet she doesn’t say a word until it’s too late, because if she does, well, goodbye Act Three.
Jerry Seinfeld hasn’t worked much lately, so the fact that he’s attached to “Bee Movie” will be a huge selling point for fans of his namesake sitcom, which still airs six million times a day despite being off the air for almost a decade. The problem is, that Jerry is nowhere to be found here. In his place is some neutered, unfunny Anti-Jerry that writes jokes about getting all B’s in school. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
“Bee Movie” may already be excruciatingly long, but I dare anyone to sit through the hours of bonus material without wanting to shoot themselves in the head. The included audio commentary (with Jerry Seinfeld and select crew members) might have been enjoyable if there weren’t six different people vying for screen time (not to mention had they actually seen the final product before recording the track), while the handful of lost scenes and alternate endings only reiterate just how unfunny the movie really is. Also included is a cast featurette (“Inside the Hive”), a behind-the-scenes look at Seinfeld’s stupid publicity stunt (“Jerry’s Flight Over Cannes”), all 16 of the TV Junior shorts, as well as stuff for the kiddies like trivia games (“That’s Un-Bee-Lieveable”) and music videos. The only worthwhile extras are some of the Blu-ray exclusives, including picture-in-picture storyboards (“The Animators’ Corner) that play along with the movie, and a pop-up trivia track.