Let's see, we have A Bug's Life, then Antz, then the insect animated films gave way to a host of animal talkies, including dancing and singing penguins, cows with confused genetic makeup, zoo animals thinking they're better off in the wild, and chef rats, amongst an array of hits and misses, recycling the same old tactics and game plan to snare the movie going audience.
Wise-cracking animals, check. Pop culture references, check. CG animation that resembles the real world, check. Celebrity voices, let's see, we have Jerry Seinfeld, Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Larry King, Ray Liotta, Sting, Barry Levinson, Kathy Bates, and even Oprah Winfrey. But we all know by now that you can throw in the craziest antics, stuff the movie with recognizable voices, but Pixar has taught the lesson that it always boils down to the strength of the story. And this is what Bee Movie is severely lacking.
Not that it didn't try, but it went tangential to what it probably had intended, and it spawned into a big bag unmanageable hydra. Jerry Seinfeld is Barry Benson, a bee who refuses to conform to the laws of nature to having become stuck in a one-role job for the rest of his life. Before committing himself to menial tasks in the honey making process, he decides to venture out with the cool pollen collectors and see the outside world. And in the process, comes into direct contact with Vanessa Bloome the florist (voiced by Zellweger). Oh, did I also mention that bees speak English? It's just that they adhere to Commandment Number One that they shut their traps so that we won't know they understand us. Yeah right.
So if you'd believe that, you'd believe anything that the movie throws at you. It becomes a courtroom drama with the usual lawyer jokes thrown in. It becomes an anti-worker exploitation movie, to stand up for the little ones, with reminders that small things matter in the whole scheme of things. It becomes a documentary on the laws of nature and the environmental / ecological equilibrium that has to be maintained. And the ultimate out of place scene involves a bloody jumbo jet in the sky in homage to the Airplane spoofs. Yes, while I know Bee Movie pays its homage to B-movies, you'd probably still wonder what the scriptwriters had in the coffee.
But given its multiple personality and indecision to focus on something that it can chew, the graphics here are still no less than stunning. The bees in flight, with the mashing of the black and yellow, is pure poetry in motion, blending well with various backgrounds, be it the city skyline, or the green lungs with colourful flowers dotting the landscape. It's extremely fluid with attention paid to the details, and would be worth every penny should there be an IMAX version of this portion of the movie. Such scenes warrant the price of an admission ticket, but alas, more could have probably been done to save the movie.
Bee Movie is again targeted at kids, although chances are they'll miss the many adult jokes and references so come fast and furious (some of which just fall flat unfortunately). And having a lack of "cute" characters, might dent its appeal, and narrow merchandising opportunities. Better luck next time Jerry!