BEE MOVIE centers around a honeybee named Barry and his life both inside and outside his beehive located in Manhattan's Central Park. Like with most animated films, this one humanizes the animals, allowing them to talk and walk just like humans do. What becomes odd, though, is that while the movie humanizes the animals, at the same time, it pits them in a conflict against humans.
These cartoon movies don't much let animals just be animals, as they did in 2006's Curious George, or simply allow the animals to exist in their own world, far removed from humans, like with Winnie the Pooh, which Seinfeld mocks in this film.
No, a lot of these cartoons instead have animal rights as their message. They compare animals to people and demonstrate how humans are hurting them or encroaching on their lands, or in this case their livelihoods. It's just a bunch of lecturing that you don't need.
The first act of this film seriously reminded me of that Coca-Cola commercial called "The Happiness Factory," that basically showed us what goes on inside a Coke vending machine. The ad was animated where-in the Coke machine's inside was this wildly colorful, wildly imaginative, Ford-inspired, Toonland, assembly line.
Seinfeld, similarly in this film's opening, shows us what goes on inside a beehive's honeycomb. What we see, besides that of a miniature yet highly crowded city, most times moving at hyper speed, is a wildly colorful, wildly imaginative, Ford-inspired, Rube Goldberg device of how bees make that yellow sticky stuff.
The animators obviously wanted to make this beehive the cutest it could possibly be, while clearly glossing over the fact that honey is the vomit of those flying critters. Honey becomes a very reverent object at one point in the film, but come on, let's face facts: honey is the upchuck of insects.
But yes, the look of this movie is very cute and cuddly. At least with this year's Oscar-winning animated film, Ratatouille, a film I didn't enjoy, the animators embraced the ugliness of the animals.
On the surface, it's very attractive to kids, but the film is still Seinfeld humor and in a theater filled with children, the laughter was very low. Most grade school kids today won't get the Ray Liotta joke or much of the banter between Seinfeld and Renee Zelweger, who plays a human florist who falls in love with Seinfeld's Barry the Bee. Nor will most kids get the references to Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate.
I doubt a good deal of them will know or care who Sting is. Sting makes a cameo, but the film's target audience will be scratching their head as to why, though some might pick up on the puns with his name.
What young viewers might enjoy instead is the energy of this film, which does boast some very cool action sequences that mainly entail the travails of a honeybee flying through the dangerous streets of New York. Lost to most young viewers will be the attention to details like all the female bees having the same hairstyle, that of the "Hairspray" beehive-style, or that the animators spent the time to give Barry and all the other bees a decent amount of bristles.
I did like the voice work of Patrick Warburton who was on Seinfeld's TV show and who is no stranger to voice-over stuff. Warburton has done The Venture Bros as well as The Family Guy. Here, Warburton plays Ken, the brazen, bee-hating boyfriend.
John Goodman also does good voice-work and is hilarious as Mr. Montgomery, the bloated, bombastic, equally bee-hating attorney. Both add some zeal to the picture.
The regular DVD has a good assortment of special features for kids to see how this colorful creation was crafted, as well as interesting information on the nature and lives of bees, who are very important to the earth's ecosystem. Bees have recently been in danger due to a very real Colony Collapse Disorder, which has been reported in the news.
However, the Very Jerry two-disc special edition DVD is my recommendation, as it features voice commentary from Seinfeld himself. It also features the video footage of his flight at the Cannes Film Festival last year where the movie made its debut, an alternate version to the film's lame ending, and the very funny TV junior spots that ran on NBC last year in promotion of the movie's theatrical release.
It would be a very good gift to young children.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for suggestive humor and depiction of smoking
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.