Jerry Seinfeld returns to the mainstream spotlight with Bee Movie, an animated anthropomorphic bee adventure that proves as awkward and ineffective as George Costanza’s attempts to wear a toupee. Barry (voiced by Seinfeld) is a worker bee who, upon learning that he’s about to get stuck doing one honey manufacturing-related job for the rest of his life, rebels and flees the hive. Out in Manhattan, he meets Vanessa (René Zellweger), a human florist with whom Barry, in a momentous decision, decides to speak. Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith’s film establishes that bee law forbids this interspecies dialogue, but not why Vanessa and Barry should immediately become such close friends; for Bee Movie, the mere fact that insects can talk makes them instantly, undeniably likeable. Barry, however, is a substandard avatar of Seinfeld himself, an observational-humor wisecracker without anything really funny to say. And thus, when he sues the human race for “stealing” the honey that bees work so hard to produce, he proves less a rousing little guy fighting the good fight against big bullies (here, corporate suits and their straight-outta-Inherit the Wind Southern lawyer, voiced by John Goodman) than an environmental lesson posing as a cute CG creature. Yet what lesson is that, exactly? (Spoilers herein.) Barry seeks freedom from conformity, but his eventual courtroom victory results in global ecological disaster, since the bees—having been awarded mankind’s honey supply—stop pollinating the world’s vegetation, which promptly begins to wither and die. That Barry’s triumph is, in fact, a catastrophic mistake which can only be corrected by bees doing what they’re supposed to do means that the film finds itself forced into the strange situation of endorsing compliance and preservation of the status quo rather than individuality. Seinfeld’s protagonist discovers his true calling through this ordeal, but all the energetic set pieces involving Barry whizzing around Central Park, bustling city streets, and the inside of automobile engines can’t obscure the off-putting semi-restrictive message conveyed by his tale. Nor, for that matter, can all this colorfully drawn, swiftly choreographed action compensate for a wealth of DOA one-liners (including those from Chris Rock’s mosquito) and celebrity cameos (Ray Liotta, Sting—get it?—and Larry King) that seem like feeble, desperate attempts to amuse sure-to-be-indifferent adult audience members.
- Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith
- Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, Andy Robin
- Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson
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