Reviews

Bee Movie

A possible trans-species romance turns instead into a strangely balanced relationship comprised of financial and legal accord -- with a bit of ecological crisis and subsequent alignment to boot.


Bee Movie

Director: Simon J. Smith
Cast: Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock
MPAA rating: PG
Studio: DreamWorks Animation
Display Artist: Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith
First date: 2007
UK Release Date: 2007-12-14 (General release)
US Release Date: 2007-11-02 (General release)
Website
I've never killed bees.

-- Jerry Seinfeld, Early Show (2 November 2007)

Bees, says Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld), should not, technically speaking, be able to fly. And he should know, being one. As he represents the basic gag in Bee Movie -- the talking bee who will explain it all to you -- Barry is both cute and annoying. As he notes the paradoxes of his airborne "fat little body" and his resilient individualism thriving in the hive, Barry sets up what looks to be Antz again, a series of adventures wherein the neurotic New Yorker finds unexpected happiness in formula.

Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith's film, however, takes a next step, quite beyond Barry's fate. The way-too-high-concept Bee Movie posits that humans have much to learn from bees (and of course, vice versa). Resisting his drone-ish destiny as a drone (his post-college floating in the pool under his parents' (Kathy Bates and Barry Levinson) anxious gazes recalls The Graduate), Barry discusses options with his best friend Adam (Matthew Broderick) (who, by the way, embraces his own destiny, signing up for an assembly line sort of job rather than imagine beyond the norm). When given an opportunity to venture outside the hive with the Special-Opsy Pollen Jocks, Barry makes the most of it. Undersized and mascotty, he loses his way during a first mission and meets and falls into an uneasy sort of "lust" with a decidedly not "beeish" girl, a Manhattan florist named Vanessa (Renée Zellweger).

As this potential trans-species romance can never be consummated, it turns instead into a peculiarly balanced relationship comprised of financial and legal accord -- with a bit of ecological crisis and subsequent alignment to boot. At first, Barry's accidentally attached to a sticky tennis ball Vanessa is hitting back and forth with her ostensible boyfriend Ken (Patrick Warburton, essentially reprising Puddy, which is fine because you can't help but love Puddy). After a narrowly averted smooshing on the court, Barry makes his way to Vanessa's apartment as respite from the rain (bees can't fly in the rain: if you've heard it once during Seinfeld's seemingly endless promotional tour for the film, you've heard it a thousand times). Here she saves him from certain smooshing by Ken's gigantic Timberland boot and so earns the bee's eternal gratitude. Unable to stop himself from expressing same, Barry breaks a bee prime directive and speaks to the human.

Thus begins a sweet sort of friendship, founded in slightly resized Seinfeldian jokes: Barry can't actually sip-through-a-straw the entire cup of coffee Vanessa offers or he would, he says, "be up for the rest of my life." He can explain details of bee life, however, which he spends a few too many minutes doing. Bees can withstand human assaults under a certain weight and force, he did once lose a cousin to Italian Vogue (lots of pages) and they also provide a crucial service to the planet, pollination.

It's this last that grounds Bee Movie's lurchy third act, as Barry discovers humans have been enslaving bees on honey farms. His decision to sue the human race leads to a lengthy court process, presided over by Judge Bumbleton (Oprah Winfrey) and facing off against lowdown lawyer Layton T. Montgomery (John Goodman). This turn involves all sorts of instruction for viewers on the exploitation of bees (and an offputting stereotypey turn by a grocery store worker named Hector [David Pimentel]). A further twist reveals that such enslavement is actually a good thing for the planet (or at least, Central Park, which appears to stand in for the planet when its flora suffer the consequences of bees on vacation).

This shift in political course wouldn't be so noticeable if the film actually had something else going for it. But aside from a brief appearance by Chris Rock as a mosquito named Mooseblood (when Barry queries about his solo lifestyle, his lack of hive support, Blood announces, "Every mosquito is on his own: you're a mosquito, you're in trouble"), Bee Movie offers few instances of straight-up funny comedy. Brightly colored and pretty, it is in the end another version of Seinfeld's usual business.

4


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.