STUDIO: Dreamworks Animation
MSRP: $26.99

RUNNING TIME: 90 Minutes  
-    Jerry & Filmmaker Commentary
-    Jerry’s 16 TV Juniors

-    Alternate Endings and Lost Scenes
-    Jerry’s Flight Over Cannes
-    Original Live-Action Trailers
-    Inside the Hive: The Cast of Bee Movie

-    “We Got the Bee” Music Video
-    Pollination Practice Video Game
-    The Ow! Meter
-    The Buzz About Bees
-    Meet Barry B. Benson

The Pitch

Dreamworks continues its obsession with anthropomorphizing every famous Jewish comedian in the industry today.

“I heard they’re approaching Judd Apatow to make an animated feature about a ocelot that can’t stop jerking off for Summer 2011.”

The Humans

Voicework by Jerry Seinfeld, Matthew Broderick, Larry Miller, Renee Zellwegger, John Goodman and many more

The Nutshell

Barry Bee Benson is looking for a little bit more in life. Though expected to join the Honex corporation after graduation and spend the rest of his life working to support the hive, Barry wants to live life more freely, and ventures outside the hive to see what lies beyond its borders. What he finds is an intoxicating world filled with wonder, not limited to the environmentally conscious and somewhat aloof young lady he meets along the way (voiced by Renee Zellwegger).  When he realizes that bees hard work of harvesting honey on a yearly basis is being co-opted by humans, he sets forth to remedy this exploitative practice with unforeseen results, showing Barry that life in the hive is more important that he could possibly have imagined.

If you squint hard enough, it looks like the list of writers for Shrek 4.

The Lowdown

Early on in the omnipresent advertising blitz for Bee Movie, something became glaringly obvious: This was a kid’s movie being almost entirely sold to the parents instead of the children. Having now seen the finished product, this becomes even more evident as one watches the film. Bee Movie pays lip service to kids by anthropomorphizing animals and putting them in bright environs, but beyond that this is a movie for fans of Jerry Seinfeld, through and through. However, it doesn’t have the bite required for it to really work for an adult, and it isn’t coherent and confident in its storytelling enough to grab the attention of a child. What one ends up with is a movie that seems to have a bipolar desire to pull in both children and adults and fails in entertaining either of them.

“If you don’t tell me what I need to know, I’m going to go grab a thimble and waterboard the fuck out of you.”

Children’s movies outright pandering to adults is a more modern development, as animation studios realized there was even more money and a wider audience to be reached if one could capture the adults’ interest as well as the children. It presumably reached its nadir with the Shrek series, but at least one can say for those that the scatological and slapstick humor contained in those movies would at least suggest the kids are being kept in mind as the movie is made. Somewhere along the line it was forgotten that kids and adults alike both take kindly to good storytelling, and that you don’t have to spice things up with unsightly cynicism and referentiality so long as you have compelling and well-rounded characters going on a journey with a message that is simple without being too cloying. There’s your magic children’s film formula.

“You didn’t see it?  I resuscitated a stroke victim by beating him on the chest with some billiard balls wrapped in pantyhose.”

The moments where the film shines (which are truly few and far between) is when it goes completely off the rails with tangential bits of business, most of which was spoiled for you in the early trailers. Ray Liotta’s brief bit of business and any humor tangents that involve dream sequences tend to be where the humor hits most hard. The voice work is pretty good, although Patrick Warburton as person with anger issues has become a cliché at this point.  There’s plenty of social commentary throughout the movie (class structures in particular are hit at numerous points, as well as Jewish humor unavoidably being placed within the setting of the bee colony). However, it never really congeals into a solid point, so they seem like a lot of nice ideas without a main idea backing them up. At first you think the film is suggesting everyone should go out in the world to find their place instead of immediately chaining themselves down to a job after they graduate, and then you think the film is becoming a treatise on the way humans deplete the Earth of its natural resources with reckless abandon, but then it all doubles back upon itself and the resultant message seems to be that the world won’t operate if everyone decides to do what they please so you should suck it up and keep at whatever job it is that’s making you miserable. That is, unless you’re that one special movie character who manages to rise above it all. So yeah, it’s one of those movies where the message is that you too can strive for more than the common man, but only if you’re that one special person, otherwise fuck off back to Applebees and take my order.*  

“So you honor, using the The Entire World vs. Dune legal precedent, I do believe Bee Movie is off the hook for any sort of quality-based refunds for our motion picture.”

If it seems like I’m being overly harsh in my judgment of this film, it’s because this is coming at children’s movies from an entirely mercenary perspective, trying for all-encompassing instead of aiming at being a competently told narrative.  Bee Movie isn’t an abomination or anything soul-sucking like that, it’s just a massive missed opportunity. It feels like a film that was focus-grouped to the point where in an attempt to entertain everyone, it loses all of what could’ve possibly entertained anyone. It’s a sad return to popular culture for Jerry Seinfeld, and yet another in a long line of lifeless Dreamworks animated features that seem to forget that a solid story with rudimentary character development is preferable to an endless parade of tired gags. I didn’t realize I was allergic to bees until after watching this movie made my face swell up like Eric Stoltz in Mask. Avoid like you’re Macaulay Culkin in My Girl.

It still sells better than Vernon Wells’ Premium Mayonnaise.

The Package

Cover art is pretty boring except for the little Seinfeld head lording over his animated kingdom at the top of the case, making once again exceptionally clear who this movie is trying to court even in its DVD release (not pictured on the cover above, though). The extras are spread out over two discs with the more adult oriented material being placed on disc one (those Bee Movie shorts that aired on NBC**, audio commentary, those oh-so promising trailers that heralded the movie over a year before its release, a truly bizarre Ray Liotta callback alternate ending) whereas the second disc caters more so to the youngsters with interactive games and featurettes that inform them of the levels of pain one can experience through different bee stings, along with a music video based on a miserable pun that should embarrass any and all Mets fans. It’s a nice overall package and one that will enhance the movie greatly if you’re a fan and make it a bit better if you aren’t. In fact, the score is much more reflective of the comprehensive slate of extras, not so much the turd chalupa that is the movie.

* However, there is a sort of morbid and subversive truth to this that can be appreciated, as a children’s movie attempts to brace a large part of its audience for the fact that everyone isn’t a unique snowflake and many are destined to be nothing more than a cog in the machine.
**Much more tolerable when separated from the advertising blitz, even if they are incredibly hit or miss.

6.0 out of 10

Strive for Mediocrity!