Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Bee Movie": Much abuzz about nothing


I apologize for that not-terribly-clever headline, but I offer it to kind of prove a point: It's about as funny as most of what you'll encounter in Jerry Seinfeld's "Bee Movie."

Which is a real shame, 'cause for the first fifteen minutes or so it's thoroughly charming and, more importantly, funny. Life in the hive, dominated by the leviathan Honex corporation (producing, of course, honey), makes for a rapid succession of very funny jokes about the life span of bees, working for your whole life, etc. With a lot more focus this could have been a kind of bee "Office Space," but alas it was not to be.

Because this flick thinks it has to be a lot more than that, our hero, Barry B. Benson (voiced with less than his usual smugness by Mr. Seinfeld) has to leave the hive, and that's where things fall apart. As my mind often does when movies start to lose its attention, I drifted to other movies I've had a beef with, in this case Tim Burton's thoroughly unnecessary "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," but in reverse. What they both lacked after brilliant openings, as "Bee Movie" left the factory and Burton's "Charlie" went into it, was almost any sense of wonder at all.

Now, I understand that (with big help from Larry David and others) Mr. Seinfeld created a sitcom that was "about nothing," and managed to make a very funny one at that. To make an entertaining 90-minute animated movie about nothing, which he tried to do here, would be no mean feat, but despite being intermittently funny throughout it really doesn't even come close.

What's the big drama once our hero Barry leaves the hive? A lawsuit, and believe it or not, it's even less compelling on screen than you could possibly imagine it would be, despite the best efforts of John Goodman as the opposing attorney. Barry, of course, also meets and becomes smitten with a florist voiced by Renee Zellweger, who I'll return to later with, I'm warning you now, some venom.

First, a word about the overall look of "Bee Movie" which, again outside of the hive, is just depressingly generic. If you've seen Miyazaki's "Kiki's Delivery Service" (and if you haven't, why not), try not to think too much about young Kiki soaring over Miyazaki's majestic landscapes of Europe as you watch Barry and the "pollen jockeys" flying over the CGI, paint-by-numbers version of what is somehow supposed to be New York City in "Bee Movie."

What this newfangled animation does to scenery, however, is far less destructive than what it does to people, specifically poor Ms. Zellweger as the florist Vanessa. As animators try to make their human characters more real, it just gets more and more perverse, in this case turning Vanessa's face into what Ms. Zellweger's looks like each time directly after she's sucked off the pounds put on for a "Bridget Jones" movie. Not pretty. It doesn't help that Vanessa's voice and mannerisms just make you want to choke her and end it all.

So, as you can tell, I really didn't care too much at all for "Bee Movie," but before I go I'd like to offer a special note of encouragement to the very young lady who, as her mother informed us before the movie started, was enjoying (or not) her first moviegoing experience with this one. Take heart, young one, because there are much better flicks than "Bee Movie" out there for you to behold. For a start, have your mom rent "Ratatouille" next Tuesday to see what a wonder great animation can really be, though you might want to have her fast-forward through the rather scary opening sequence.

As for me, there's a hopefully much better movie in my immediate future, with a screening of Ridley Scott's "American Gangster" at noon. Peace out.

21 comments:

Neel Mehta said...

Jeez. (Beez?) Glad I missed this one.

You'd think the benefit of a Renee Zellweger voiceover role is that you don't have to look at that once-pretty face she's now destroyed. What were the animators thinking?

Reel Fanatic said...

I think they must have gone out of their way to make her annoying, Neel, though the appeal in that obviously escapes me

Divinity said...

Hmmm, the bf is excited about this one. Methinks it's time to break out the free passes.

Sterfish said...

It's unfortunate that it's not that good since, quite frankly, the more I saw of the movie in commercials, the more I was interested in it.

Oh, and I'm with you divinity on using free passes. I have a re-admission pass to use because the projector stopped multiple times during the previews before (and the beginning of) Superbad when I saw it. My sister and I agreed that we'd save those passes for use on Bee Movie since we were interested but not $9 interested.

Reel Fanatic said...

If both of you do indeed see this one, please let me know if I'm just completely wrong .. I saw American Gangster today (well, by a few minutes, yesterday), and I have to say I haven't seen a better movie this year (it has even bumped off Ratatouille from the top spot), so the movie weekend has gotten much better

Ashok said...

We agree on lot of things. Check out my review ! While it had some funny moments, it just did not add up at all. And I am a "Seinfeld" fan :-).

Chris said...

I thought this was pretty nonsensical fun, and it's my favorite of all the Dreamworks cartoons (yes, including Shrek). I actually laughed more after the first fifteen minutes because the first fifteen minutes are what you expect out of all these "secret world" CGI cartoons.

I noted in my own review that much of the stuff that I laughed at is probably going to be dated after a few years, but I enjoyed the John Travolta joke, and the fact that Ray Liotta brings his 2005 Emmy to the witness stand. And I didn't think Renee Zellweger was all that annoying at all; actually thought her character was charming.

I also liked the fact that everyone could understand the bees, which was played into another good joke later. I've always hated the "only one person can understand them" angle.

It's no Ratatouille, that's for sure (it's not even Pixar's "worst," Cars). But it is what it is, and it hit more than it didn't for me.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm glad to hear from someone who liked this more than I did, Chris .. I really wanted to like it more, but like I said, I just couldn't get into it .. I did think though, like you, that that John Travolta joke was very funny

Toto said...

I zoned out about mid-way through the movie ... I think there's a finite amount of material you can wring out of mixing bees with people. And I don't know who the film is aimed at. It's too verbose for kiddies, yet the story is far too complex (unnecessarily so) for adults.

I did find in interesting that Seinfeld gave Michael Richards a small vocal part late in the film.

RC said...

glad to see Jerry Seinfeld working...glad to see people keeping Reene Z. busy so she doesn't have to be in an academy-award-esque movie...and glad to see i don't need to Bee Seeing this one.

RC said...

glad to see Jerry Seinfeld working...glad to see people keeping Reene Z. busy so she doesn't have to be in an academy-award-esque movie...and glad to see i don't need to Bee Seeing this one.

DCMovieGirl said...

I had a feeling this would suck. Thanks, for the warning.

Reel Fanatic said...

I somehow missed that completely about Richards, Toto, but it is indeed nice that Seinfeld still uses his pull to help out his friends, no matter how big of an asshole they might be . and now I'm off to the IMDB to see if I can figure out just what Richards did in "Bee Movie"

Toto said...

If memory serves, Richards give voice to an air traffic controller late in the movie. It's a small role, but it's him all right.

Reel Fanatic said...

Ah ... thanks for the clarification, Toto!

Bee Movie SoundTrack said...

My husband and I took our ten-year-old grandson to see this movie, assuming it would be a delight. It was not. My grandson laughed two or three times; same for me.

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