‘Bee Movie’ rises high above B movies

  • By Betsy Pickle Scripps Howard News Service
  • Thursday, November 1, 2007 4:51pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Not since a genie with the voice of Robin Williams popped out of a lamp in “Aladdin” has a comedian found such comic bliss with an animated character as Jerry Seinfeld does in “Bee Movie.”

It’s the most buzz-worthy pairing of the year — Seinfeld and Barry Benson, the bee who stirs up life inside and outside the hive in “Bee Movie.” And the project is Seinfeld’s baby — well, his other baby (he has a 2-year-old son plus two more kids under 7). He co-wrote the script and produced the film in addition to providing the voice of the lead character.

“Bee Movie” has Seinfeld’s stamp all over it, from the sneakers Barry wears to the many pals of his who also voice characters. It may allude to the “B” movie label, but this is strictly an A-list enterprise.

Barry and his best friend, Adam (Matthew Broderick), are excited to be graduating from college (“class of 9:15 a.m.”) in New Hive City. Numerous job choices await them, all connected to the honey business. But Barry freezes when he realizes the job he takes is the one he’ll be doing the rest of his life.

A dare from a “pollen jock” goads Barry into leaving the hive and heading into the big world outside. Being around humans takes some getting used to, and Barry quickly breaks Bee Rule No. 1 when he talks to a human, Vanessa (Renee Zell­weger), to thank her for saving his life.

To the dismay of his loved ones, Barry starts spending time with florist Vanessa. On a trip with her to the grocery store, Barry makes a shocking discovery. Humans steal honey from bees and make a profit from it. Barry is livid. Bees work all their lives — sometimes giving their lives — to make honey. Why should humans reap the rewards? Barry decides something must be done.

Directed by Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner, “Bee Movie” starts with a barrage of one-liners, puns and slapstick abuse and doesn’t let up until Barry and Vanessa take a coffee break for some obligatory character development. Even then, the movie doesn’t sag but just mellows briefly.

In fact, the only times “Bee Movie” slows its jackrabbit pace are when humans (voiced by the likes of Patrick Warburton, John Goodman and Oprah Winfrey) enter the picture. Sometimes they just can’t keep up with the energy or the humor of Barry and his diminutive friends. But that’s a minor complaint.

Talents such as Chris Rock, Megan Mullally and Larry Miller channel their distinctive styles into the family-friendly vibe and add humorous grace notes to Seinfeld’s hilarious lead. Adults will get the most out of cameos by Sting and Ray Liotta and references to “The Graduate.”

The movie shares bee facts, some less serious than others (“bees as a species haven’t had a day off in 27 million years”). It wisely doesn’t mention the recent disturbing drops in bee populations (that’ll be Al Gore’s animated bee movie).

The computer animation is average, though there are some vibrant flying scenes, and the bees look great. Inevitably, there are lessons learned, but thanks to Seinfeld, they’re not too sobering. The net effect is very Zen. Just bee.

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