“Bee Movie”, the new animated film created by Jerry Seinfeld, with the voices of Seinfeld, Renee Zellweger, Patrick Warburton, Matthew Broderick and John Goodman, is a cute film. Too cute.
The title is a play on words, and this is about as edgy as the humor gets. B Movie is a term that used to be applied to a film made by a studio that was paired with a more expensive, more prestigious film. Basically, a second film used to fill out a double bill to give the customer the feeling they have received their money’s worth. Generally, they were made by directors less respected by the studio and starred either new, up and coming actors or actors who needed a paycheck. “Bee Movie” is about Barry the Bee (Seinfeld). Get it.
Barry and his best friend, Adam (Matthew Broderick) graduate from Bee College and immediately find they face a decision; they must choose the job they will do for the rest of their lives. But Barry wants to se the outside world, so he tags along with a group of bees that are charged with collecting pollen. Flying through the outside world, Barry’s eyes are opened by all New York has to offer and he meets a human, Vanessa Bloome (Renee Zellweger), a flower shop owner (get it?) who befriends him from the buffoon (Patrick Warburton) who wants to be her boyfriend. As their friendship blooms, Barry learns humans have harvested a lot of honey, stolen it from the bees and decides to take them to court to get it back. It sounds like a good idea, but when he wins, an unexpected thing happens and he has to make everything right.
The film is sprinkled with humor. Every now and then, Barry has a Seinfeld-like rift on what he is observing as a bee in the outside world. And some of the characters have memorable lines. For instance, the buffoon (Warburton) who wants to become Vanessa’s boyfriend, is upset when she cancels Yogurt night. “Why is Yogurt night so hard?” he bellows as the door is shut in his face.
And the environment of the hive is interesting; as the film begins, the animators take us on a whirlwind tour of the hive and all of the various aspects of it. This is a fast paced moment and provides for some neat visual gags.
When Barry takes his flight with the rest of the bees who venture out of the hive, the animators have some fun with the flight, swooping in and out of box kites, through trees, across the New York landscape.
The biggest problem with “Bee Movie” lies in the animation. It is well done but the style of the characters is too cutesy. As soon as I saw Barry and Adam walking through the hive, I immediately thought of a picture book for children. The animation is very stylized and far removed from reality, which is a good thing because a realistic bee probably wouldn’t be too fun to watch. But they have, perhaps, gone too far in the other direction. Barry and all of his brethren resemble a Disney Baby version of a bee. A few years ago, Disney began creating Disney Baby versions of Mickey, Pluto, Donald, Minnie, Goofy and the rest of the brood, that are much rounder, softer, and cuter. Perfect for little babies and newborns, extending the Disney brand by capturing the kids even earlier. The bees look like that, rounder, softer, and cuter.
If this were the only example of this, of catering to the very youngest crowd, it would probably be okay. But there seems to be a conscious effort to gear the entire film for this age range. The humor is light and less sardonic or biting than you might find. The story is a little simplistic. The acting is a bit broad. I think that you will find in any ‘classic’ animated film the filmmakers have made a conscious effort to cater to both young and old. In all of the modern Disney classics, the animation is beautiful and strives to be as lifelike as possible. While they may include talking (or singing) animals, they also include humor geared specifically for adults and maybe even a little danger or threat. This makes these films enjoyable for the adults who are required to bring the kids to the theaters in the first place. And when those kids grow up, they remember the films with fond memories, introducing them to their children.
“Bee Movie” isn’t bad, it just isn’t fast-paced enough to keep the adults in the audience enthralled. There is a scene late in the film in which Barry and Vanessa are traveling to California on a plane. Very quickly, things spiral out of control and Barry and Vanessa find themselves in control of the plane. There is a moment when Barry tries to explain to Vanessa what happened, which is the closest thing we have to the “Seinfeld” humor you would expect from him. It is a funny line and more of the same type of humor would have helped to make the film more memorable.
“Bee Movie” has its moments, but I can’t help but think the film is appropriately named. It will most likely be a B movie in comparison to the best Disney has to offer and anything Pixar ever does.