Directed by: Steve Hickner
Starring: Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Patrick Warburton
Whatever your opinion is of Jerry Seinfeld, you have to give him some credit for being shrewd enough to realize that he is not an actor and definitely not a movie star. This also seems to be the reason that the comedian has decided to make his big-screen debut—eight years after the end of his sitcom Seinfeld—in an animated movie. The only problem is that the animated movie in question is the utterly generic, unfunny Bee Movie, which has less in common with Seinfeld than it does with, say, The Michael Richards Show, meaning it’s just another bad post-Seinfeld career move. This is the most interesting aspect of the entire movie: Why this and why now?
It’s hard to imagine the movie not being pitched with a Seinfeldian “What is the deal with bees?” However, as far as animated films go, it abides by the standard formula. You get a generally feared, misunderstood group—in this case, bees—who turn out to be just like us, and everyone lives in harmony and understanding by the time the credits hit. In the case of Bee Movie, we get Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld), a young honey bee fresh from college, who soon realizes the stark reality that the rest of his life will be spent in the same job making honey, without a single day off. He soon ventures out into the world, where he not only breaks the “bee law” of speaking to a human (a florist voiced by Renée Zellweger), but also discovers that humans have been stealing and selling honey. Barry decides to sue the honey industry, giving us the world’s first animated courtroom drama.
It’s obvious from the get-go that Seinfeld and the film’s three other writers have made their living writing for television, since all the focus is on jokes as opposed to the plot. This would be fine, except they forgot the first rule of comedy: Be funny. Instead, they must have interpreted this as “bee funny” (I’m so sorry about that), since the film’s peppered with the kind of puns that would make Gene Shalit proud and some Shrek-style pop-culture references (featuring the likes of Sting, Larry King and Ray Liotta). They even manage to combine the two into one groan-inducing, unholy pun/pop-culture abomination by squeezing The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” into the film.
Even when the makers get something right, they manage to botch it, such as with Chris Rock’s inclusion in the film. Rock’s mosquito is the only amusing part of the entire movie, yet he’s only on-screen for maybe a minute, and that estimate might be on the generous side. In fact, I’m pretty sure he had more screen time in the film’s original teaser trailer than he does in the actual movie. And even the usual saving grace of being only 90 minutes doesn’t help here, since the movie has that rare quality of bending space and time in order to instead feel two hours long.
No matter what anyone says about the injection of “Seinfeldian wit” into the film, the movie is still nothing more than run-of-the-mill—from the lackluster, personality-free animation to the worn-out humor. Sure, there are lots of pretty colors for the youngsters, but that’s about it. It’s certainly not the bee’s knees. Rated PG for mild suggestive humor and a brief depiction of smoking.