Jerry Seinfeld Returns... Bearing Bees
After comedian Jerry Seinfeld retired from his popular sitcom in 1998, he looked for new worlds to conquer. He co-wrote a script about bees with Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, and Andy Robin and told DreamWorks Animation that he would be willing to star in it. The result was "Bee Movie" (2007), directed by Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner. "Bee Movie" is a computer animated feature film that also starred Renee Zellwegger and several of Jerry's old buddies from the sitcom. While the film did only average business for a computer animated film, it is an enjoyable treat that should delight youngsters of all ages.
|Barry at his graduation|
Seinfeld stars as Barry B. Benson, a worker bee in a hive in Sheep Meadow, Central Park in New York City. A recent college graduate, Barry's best friend is Adam Flayman (Matthew Broderick), and they are about to join the bee work force. Barry, however, is depressed about the idea of working for the rest of his life, so against the advice of Adam he leaves the hive to see the world. He has various adventures, but things start to get dangerous after he runs into some humans and he decides to return home. Flying home, it begins to rain, and Barry flies into a window, landing on the windowsill. Trapped inside the house, he narrowly escapes death before being rescued by florist Vanessa Bloome (Zellwegger). After thinking about it, Barry goes back to thank Bloome, and the two become fast friends. His bee friends and family, and her human friends, though, think this relationship is scandalous.
|A window proves to be an impassable barrier for Barry|
Learning more about humans from Bloome, Barry finds that they eat bees' honey. Intrigued, he hitches a ride on a truck to the place that produces the honey, Honey Farms, and on the way meets mosquito Mooseblood ( Chris Rock). After Mooseblood leaves to get some blood for food, Barry continues on to the farm and witnesses the process of producing honey. Irked by the idea that humans are stealing bee honey for their own purposes, Barry decides to sue humans to get an injunction against them and make them stop. Barry becomes famous, appearing on the top-rated human news shows.
|Vanessa Bloome likes what she sees|
At trial, defense lawyer Layton Montgomery (John Goodman) accuses Barry of various things that send Barry into a rage. He stings Montgomery, which damages his case, but then rectifies matters by producing the smoke machine with which Honey Farms pacifies bees and makes them produce honey on command. Winning the case, Barry secures the return of all honey in the world to the bees. This, however, doesn't turn out very well, as it puts hordes of bees out of jobs. Without bees pollinating flowers, plants begin to die, and the food chain is disrupted.
|Mooseblood, voiced by Chris Rock|
Desperate to set things right and restore nature's balance, Barry and Vanessa go to the Tournament of Roses Parade in California to find pollen-filled flowers. Along the way, their flight from California to New York is diverted due to storms. Since time is of the essence, Barry tries to force the pilots to fly through the storm anyway, but he only succeeds in knocking them unconscious. The nation of bees, however, flies up to the plane and helps it to land safely.
|Barry buzzing along with Vanessa|
Having saved the world's flowers by retrieving the pollen from California, Barry is pleased to see that honey production has resumed. Humans and bees now understand each other better, and bees become a willing part of the process of producing honey for humans. Barry and Adam get jobs, with Adam and Mooseblood working with Bloome as lawyers. Barry, though, can't help himself from trying to make the world a better place, and is last seen talking with a cow about how humans use her milk.
|"Pollen Jocks" Pollinating flowers|
"Bee Movie" has quite a high-concept plot that may be difficult for some children to follow. It does have a level of wit that is often missing from animated films, with the sure Seinfeld touch evident throughout, from the New York City locale to the puns and witticisms (the title itself, "Bee Movie," is a pun on "B Movie," the old industry term for second-rate films). Funny and relaxed, "Bee Movie" will entertain just about everyone if they have an open mind about the world and can accept the premise of bees who resent people eating their honey.
|Without bees, there can be no flowers|
The animation is good, but not exceptional. Animation was in a period of rapid advancement, and "Bee Movie" unfortunately does not fully take advantage of all those improvements (why isn't this in 3D?). The real draw is the cast, with Michael Richards, Patrick Warburton, and Larry Miller from "Seinfeld" giving the film a warm, comfortable feeling. Everybody is safe and non-threatening, from the genial Broderick to the dramatic Megan Mullally. "Bee Movie" is more cerebral than most animated films, relying on thoughts and relationships to entertain rather than slapstick humor and lots of action. As such, it is reminiscent of "Seinfeld," and has that off-handed charm that infused that television series.
|Barry and Vanessa enjoying a rest together|
The big animated film of 2007 was "Ratatouille," and while "Bee Movie" is fun, it is no "Ratatouille." The box office worldwide was $287 million, a disappointing total. Part of the problem with the audience's reception of "Bee Movie" may have been the somewhat eccentric plot. Jerry Seinfeld made his name with observational humor and wry observations on the human condition which plays well in stand-up and over the course of a television series - you'll have to decide if that translates well to a movie about bees. Another problem is the sheer weirdness of implying some kind of romantic relationship between a bee and a human being. It is simply difficult to get too worked up about whether bees are upset about how people use their honey. Also, there are inconsistencies, with Barry being a tiny insect at times, but then, as in the picture above, suddenly human-sized. Yes, nit-picks, but details like these are important to audiences. That "Bee Movie" did as well as it did is probably as much due to the film's spritely charm and friendly cast as with anything else.
|Sting makes a cameo appearance because, you know, his name is Sting|
The soundtrack is one of the film's highlights, with Sheryl Crow providing an energetic version of The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" and the film's use of The Archies' old tune "Sugar Sugar." Rupert Gregson-Williams provided the rest of the fine score.
|Barry helpfully decides to give a cow some friendly advice|
"Bee Movie" is quite fun, and is particularly great entertainment for children. Adults may get a bit tired with the sometimes too-cute cleverness (something Seinfeld is famous for, either you like that sort of thing or you don't), but every parent should be delighted to see their children joyfully watching the colorful bees fly around saying funny things. As is always the case, these kinds of animated films that are filmed from a non-human perspective provide a different take on the world that is impossible to duplicate in live-action films. "Bee Movie" is a good choice for a day off from school or a rainy day when everybody, including bees, have to find some way to entertain themselves.
Below are two videos: the first is a trailer from "Bee Movie," and the second is an alternative ending to the song "Here Comes the Sun" as sung by Sheryl Crow. There have been rumors of a sequel, but nothing definitive.