When I settled in to watch Bee Movie I really wasn't expecting much. Seinfeld, that long-running show about nothing, had never really been a favorite of mine, so the presence of Jerry Seinfeld didn't really pique my curiosity. However, I've enjoyed the ingenuity of Dreamworks Animation in the past in such projects as the Shrek film series, Madagascar, and Antz, so I was curious to see what Bee Movie had to offer.
Written, produced by, and starring Jerry Seinfeld as the lead voice talent, Bee Movie turned out to be far more enjoyable than I expected. As the film begins, Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld) has graduated from bee high school. He and his best friend Adam Flayman (Matthew Broderick) are quickly thrust into the workforce. They are told to select one job that they will have for their entire lives. For whatever reason, Barry finds this idea troubling and longs to find out what life is like outside the hive before committing to the same job for life.
He decides to take a trip to the outside world with some 'Pollen Jocks' and gets separated from them during a rainstorm. After he flies into a dish of guacamole, he is nearly killed by a dumb jock named Ken (Patrick Warburton), but Ken's girlfriend Vanessa Bloome (Renee Zellweger) stops him from killing Benson. (After a predictable speech about how bees might have feelings, too.) Breaking the cardinal rule that bees must not talk to humans, Barry decides that he has to say thank you to Vanessa for saving his life. Needless to say, the woman is shocked at the insect's ability to talk.
The young woman (a florist) and the bee develop a fast friendship. Barry's growing friendship with Vanessa causes a lot of upheaval in the bee community. There is a funny send-up of the classic film The Graduate, where Barry, taking on the persona of Benjamin Braddock, is lazily floating around on a raft in a pool of honey while his parents are pestering him about his career choice. Not wanting to discuss it, Barry slides off the raft to the bottom of the pool of honey. One thing that surprised and delighted me was the double-entendres. While none of this should be offensive to children ready for PG-rated films, the mildly suggestive humor gives adults an extra laugh.
Barry discovers commercial hives and decides to take the world to court for all the 'stolen' honey and the mistreatment of bees. A long court battle ensues between Barry and Layton T. Montgomery (John Goodman). Oprah Winfrey even shows up as the voice of the judge. Eventually, Barry wins the case. Unfortunately, so much honey is returned to the bees that the hive no longer has to produce product, which causes nearly all trees and plants to die because bees aren't carrying pollen from plant to plant.
So Barry learns the hard way that bees do more than just produce honey. Vanessa has been forced to close her beloved flower shop because there just aren't enough flowers left to sell. So of course, the two work out a plan to revive the flower and tree population and set the eco-system right again.
While a romance between a woman an a bee is seriously far-fetched, Bee Movie offers quite a few laughs over its 90-minute running time. The idea that Seinfeld took a small, ill thought of insect like a bee and put him square into the human world was interesting. Do you suppose they talk? Do they have feelings? You might find yourself pondering such questions after watching Bee Movie.
The voice talent in Bee Movie is strictly A-list. Seinfeld brings a wonderful emotional range to Barry Benson. He expresses happiness, sadness, panic — the whole spectrum. Renée Zellweger brings the same kind of warm fuzziness to Vanessa she seems to bring to almost every role she plays. Matthew Broderick and John Goodman bring real oomph to their roles, but it is Patrick Warburton who steals every scene as Ken. He sounds like a steroid-addled Neanderthal man who makes his character jump off the screen. Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Rip Torn, and Barry Levinson have smaller supporting roles in the film. Sting, Larry King, and Ray Liotta parody themselves in the movie, adding another humorous angle to the proceedings.
Bee Movie is a digitally created film, so the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer looks fabulous on DVD. The colors are pristine and there are absolutely no flaws. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is impressive. A French 5.1 soundtrack accompanies the English mix and Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks are provided for Spanish viewers.
Bee Movie (A Very Jerry 2-Disc Edition) provides a bunch of extras. The first disc contains "Commentary with Jerry Seinfeld and Filmmakers" in which Seinfeld and others involved in making the film discuss the process. It was interesting to hear Seinfeld and co-writer Barry Marder, co-directors Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner, co-producer Christina Steinberg and editor Nick Fletcher talk about real-life events that inspired the film and how they brought it all to the screen.
The first disc also contains "Three Lost Scenes" (5:00) titled "Barry Interview," "The Queen" and "Liotta on a Plane". Seinfeld introduces each scene and provides comments about it. These scenes were never animated, but are storyboarded. Six "Alternate Endings" (14:39) are also provided. Again these are storyboarded. "Jerry´s Flight Over Cannes" (3:02) is a short about how Jerry introduced the film at the Cannes film festival. "Inside the Hive: The Cast of Bee Movie" (14:42) is a longer a "making of" featurette.
The second disc is more techie fun stuff, rather than material directly related to the film. "Tech of Bee Movie" (7:32) is a look at the computers and animation techniques that were used to bring Seinfeld´s creation to life. It includes more interviews with Seinfeld and crew. "Meet Barry B. Benson" is an interactive feature for kids. The "We Got the Bee" music video and a DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox round out the special features on this loaded set.