Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Bee Movie

One wonders how something titled The Bee Movie (2007) could receive any grade other than a B. In fact, that is one of the jokes in the movie. But I will resist it.

The Bee Movie first got my attention about a year ago when I saw quite possible the worst preview in the history of cinema...and I saw previews for Vanilla Sky (2001) which, coincidentally, is perhaps the worst movie in the last 50 years. And that includes a raft of Kevin Costner and Keanu Reeves vehicles, for the cinema snobs...

In the preview Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock put on ridiculous insect costumes and did some slapstick material on a windshield. It was not funny, it was not entertaining...it was actually so stupid that on the preview rating system of both the Goose and I it received a "No interest whatsoever".

The second preview was almost as bad.

The third preview saved it and we ended up seeing it, though there is an open question whether we saw it because we thought it might be good or because my back hurt too much to want to see cards, Tuesday is free popcorn day, and we could dodge major traffic. I put my money on the popcorn/traffic avoidance motivation, personally.

It started out promisingly with a few good jokes such as three days of high school being awkward.

Then there is the pretty funny dream sequence where Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld), while drowning in honey, fantasizes about a picnic with Vanessa Bloome (Renée Zellweger).

There is great potential in the movie and some is realized during the courtroom scenes where Barry comes up against Layton T. Montgomery (John Goodman), a blowhard attorney set on defending the honey companies.

The movie was clearly made by people with an agenda and the courtroom scenes make this abundantly clear. Heaven help the person who does not think animals are at the least equal to human beings on the importance scale because writers Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, and Andy Robin and directors Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith will not.

In the end, and I assume this spoils nothing, the "natural order" is returned, albeit with improved roles for the worker bees and everyone ends up happy...except Vanessa's clueless blowhard ex-boyfriend Ken (Patrick Warburton).

The animation is beautifully done. There are some amazing shadows and reflections that show just how far animated pictures have come since Steamboat Willie (1928)....or even since the gorgeously done The Lion King (1994).

The plot is nice with a couple of interesting twists, but nothing too surprising.

The dialogue is okay. Several clever fourth wall asides are probably the best jokes...for example, on their way to work Barry and Adam Flayman (Mathew Broderick) take a loop that shoots them airborne, after which they comment, "It is nice of them to incorporate a thrill ride on our way to work" in a none-too-subtle jab at rides based on movies, which are plentiful. And Seinfeld has worked in a couple of one-liners that call back his observational humor.

But in the end, everything doesn't work as well as you would think it would. It is not as funny as you would expect...though the Larry King sequence stole the show and almost moved my rating up an entire notch...and tries to do too many things so never does any of them well.

It is a diverting hour and change, but nothing you should pay full price to see.

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