“Nobody works harder”
Jerry Seinfeld takes his comedy act to a whole new level in the computer animated comedy Bee Movie. Seinfeld produces this moderately funny movie and voices Barry B. Benson, a bee uneasy about his upcoming work career. Rene Zelleweger (Jerry Maguire, Cold Mountain) voices human character Vanessa Bloome, a local florist who befriends Barry. Their purposely absurd relationship provides several funny and sweet moments. The exterior street scene where they debate the fastest movement of their respective species is priceless.
Vanessa’s boyfriend (of sorts) Ken, voiced by Patrick Warburton (Men in Black 2, Emperor’s New Groove), completes the main character triangle. Barry’s best friend Adam, voiced by Matthew Broderick, and parents (Kathy Bates and director Barry Levinson) help steer Barry towards the bee work culture but Barry still wants to test his higher aspirations. While on an outing with Vanessa, Barry sticks his energy in an injustice – stolen honey and forced bee labor!
This bee revelation galvanizes all the yellow jackets to action, but all actions have consequences and noticeable results. The morals and themes are political without being preachy as the audience learns what would happen if bees didn’t exist. Going beyond your abilities; all life has value; and everyone has purpose: all are just some of the admirable moral lessons.
The bee world has lots of fun, roller coaster-like elements, but uneven logic hurts the story when it’s noticed. For example, Barry flies outside the hive for the first time and can instantly recognize a box kite, yet doesn’t know what glass is. Logistical debates could be explained (maybe their bee news station shows these things), but the transitions among the jokes and action becomes disjointed.
The screenplay, written by Seinfeld with Barry Marder and Seinfeld television series alums Spike Feresten and Andy Robin, make a bumpy shift into the second act with the overdrawn legal storyline about the stolen honey. Southern lawyer Layton Montgomery, voiced by John Goodman, represents food companies who exploit the hard working honeymakers. Directors Steve Hickner and Simon Smith work with outstanding graphics, which come through well, especially in the human characters.
Chris Rock provides more laughs as Mooseblood the mosquito while Oprah Winfrey voices a judge and Rip Torn (Men in Black) voices a bee air force commander. My favorite singer Sting (a.k.a. Gordon Matthew Sumner) gets not one, but two great cameo scenes. Seinfeld’s got a string of mildly malicious jokes in there too, specifically regarding John Travolta and Ray Liotta (doing his own voice). The now standard “we could have a sequel or maybe not” ending puts some clever spins on presented storylines and character development.
Can’t think of any unused bee characteristic; writers utilize source material bee-utifully backed by some accurate research. This high flying flic shows audiences exactly what bees do, but a smoother story (reportedly finalized after 40 plus drafts) would’ve been nice. Recommended with reservations and rated PG for mild suggestive humor, and a brief depiction of smoking.