Timed nicely to bookend the year following the release of Happy Feet at the end of 2006/start of 2007, Bee Movie unfortunately takes up where its predecessor left off.
Our hero Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) the bee is graduating college after 9 long days of education and is excited to know that tomorrow he will start employment in the great business of the hive, honey production. He and his friend Adam Flayman (Matthew Broderick) take their rollercoaster-ride tour of the factory before being given the choice that will define the remainder of their lives – which job will these worker bees perform until they drop? Surprisingly for a bee so well educated in the slogans of their corporate culture, Barry reneges and heads out into the human world, where he almost loses his life only to be saved by florist Vanessa Bloome (Renée Zellweger). The moment he notices the human stockpiles of honey, the substance he and his millions of cousins work so hard to produce even a drop of, his life’s choices become clear.
As a film directed at the ‘kiddie dollar’ Bee Movie hits all the right notes – bright colours in a whirl of activity and smart-cracking anthropomorphised insects are sure to appeal. It is a little surprising that so much of the film revolves around dialogue, however, and the children in the audience noticably lose interest only to have it piqued again whenever a big action set piece is rolled out. It is almost as if the man who made a tv show about nothing but incessant talking wanted to make a bee movie with the same premise, but test screenings left the audience so despairing that scenes featuring Barry trying to stay alive within the machinery of a car or negotiating the impossibly complicated honey factory equipment had to be inserted to keep the children docile.
After a relatively benign first act, it is later in the film that things really go awry. The film seems to suggest that corporatisation in the human world is evil but happily encourages the ultimate in corporatism within the hive. It takes blind stabs at several other ‘isms’ including specism, and neatly misses the mark with most. Last, Barry eventually becomes little more than a mouthpiece for the environmental movement, spouting propaganda-like slogans suggesting that every little bee (read: child in the audience) has an important role to play in the maintenance of the health of the Earth. Thank goodness he still has a chance, the film tells us, as it’s all his fault so he’d better take steps to put things right – but did anyone ever actively decide they wanted Jerry Seinfeld to be their child’s tutor in environmental fundamentalism?
Some of the animation is wonderful, although other sections are bland and uninspired. The rehash of the ‘incredible contraption’ of so many other animated films (eg. Robots, Hoodwinked, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) seems desperate (and yet strangely half-hearted), and many of the out-of-hive scenes are almost Simpsons-esque in their lack of sparkle. Voice acting is adequate without having any standouts, and the aforementioned problems with plot and direction curse this film to the bee-list at best.Rating: