OK, I'll admit it: I am probably the only person in the world who simply did not get Seinfeld. I tried it, repeatedly, and found its charms as picayune as its subject matters. That same strange dearth of interest, let alone comedy, makes Bee Movie more of a B-movie, but since I am obviously immune to Sir Jerry's comedic style, you may want to take that into consideration.
Bee Movie is in many ways the most visually impressive animated film yet to come out of Dreamworks, with a spry visual design and beautifully rendered insects and, to a lesser degree, humans, all in a candyland bright palette that is a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, it's a lot of eye candy put to the service of a very poorly developed story, one that is described in the commentary track as having gone through 212 revisions, which begs two disparate questions: if you need that many, something's wrong to begin with, or, conversely, maybe you should have gone for 213.
The story, such as it is, follows the adventures of Jerry (who also co-wrote and co-produced) as Barry the bee, who escapes the mundane workaday world of his hive to form a patently strange relationship with the human female Vanessa, voiced by Renee Zellweger. What initially looks like it's going to be a "beauty and the insect" mismatched love story (which it ultimately kind of is), instead takes an intermittently amusing left turn when Barry discovers what we evil humans are doing with all that honey the bees toil so long and hard to produce: namely, stealing it.
The film then goes into a trial sequence where the bees en masse sue the honey manufacturers, giving John Goodman the chance to chew the scenery, voice-talent wise, in an over-the-top performance as a southern attorney representing the honey consortium. Oprah Winfrey shows up as the Judge, and Matthew Broderick and Rip Torn also do some great work in supporting roles throughout the film.
What this film lacks, and puts it squarely in a league far beneath the best of the Pixar features, is a sustained comedic tone. While there are a couple of laugh out loud sequences (the Keystone Cops cascading catastrophes in the cockpit of a jet toward the end of the film, for example), a lot of the film just lies there like, well, a squashed bug. There's always a lot to look at, and frequently just as much to listen to with an artfully assembled soundtrack, but there's nothing really to engage any older audience member like the best of the Pixar features and even Shrek from Dreamworks itself.
These caveats aside, however, younger kids are going to love Bee Movie for the very reasons stated above: it is an eyeful and earful, and younger audiences probably don't care about the storyline that much, anyway.
The beautifully detailed image was a complete wow on my upconverting DVD player viewed on a high-def television. Incredible sharpness and vivid color and saturation make Bee Movie one of the best looking animated features since Finding Nemo.
The Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks sport excellent separation, with some great spatial transitions in sound effects, especially effective in the insect flying sequences.
Disc 1 sports an informative, if at times cluttered, commentary from Jerry and various members of the production, as well as some storyboarded sequences that didn't make the final cut of the film (including a great turn by Megan Mullally as an amorous, and homicidal, queen bee), a short feature on Jerry dressing as a giant bee for the Cannes Festival premiere, and some behind the scenes footage of the voice talent in action. The best extra on Disc 1 points up the relative paucity of the comedy in the feature itself; it's a set of "TV Juniors," short, and frequently hysterically funny, live action promo pieces. The first one, featuring what is purportedly Jerry's pitch meeting with Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks, is a minor classic of Hollywood ego parodied brilliantly. If only the film had risen to such heights. Disc 2 has a hit or miss collection of short bonus features, including (in the hit department) a nice feature on what bees do for our planet, and (in the miss department) a stupid "Ow-meter" describing various dangers for both humans and bees. There are some other interactive "games" (such as they ever are on DVDs) and a video jukebox which is obviously a sales tool, being culled from other Dreamworks animated features.
Younger kids are going to love Bee Movie. Older adolescents and teens are probably going to find it a big yawn due to its lack of insouciant humor. Recommended for families with younger kids; others are probably going to want to rent it, if that.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet