With the release of numerous animated features over recent years, I’ve found my patience being tested. My interest in the medium as a whole has waned considerably because of uninspired stories that never try anything new.
Animation houses seem content to simply pump out generic characters, situations and narratives in order to capitalize on ravenous younger target markets. The animation genre has gone from being a pinnacle of film innovation (remember the first time you saw Toy Story?) to something that I no longer feel anything for. There are exceptions, of course, but the art form is now largely over-crowded and suffocating under a mass of mediocrity.
When trailers for Bee Movie started to appear I wanted to believe that things would be different. Certainly, I knew that Jerry Seinfeld would bring something new to the mix but would that be enough? Sadly, not quite.
Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) is a honey bee. Having has just graduated from three days of college (that’s how long bee college is) he is unsure of what he wants to do with his life. His best friend Adam (Matthew Broderick) is raring to get a job within the hive and integrate himself but Barry dreams of escaping its confines and experiencing the world outside.
He wants more but his family is horrified at the idea of him being anything else but a honey bee. Barry looks set to become another mindless drone but when he goes on an unplanned excursion outside the hive everything changes. When his life is saved by a kind-hearted florist (RenÃ©e Zellweger), he becomes involved in a friendship/relationship that has wide-ranging implications for not only beekind but humankind as well.
With Bee Movie Jerry Seinfeld takes his humorous observations about the human world and superimposes them onto the world of the honey bee. The result, an animated feature that manages to rise above drivel like Shrek the Third. Nevertheless, the whole experience is rather disjointed, episodic and lacks a truly cohesive narrative because the nature of the gags – while extremely engaging – fractures the story.
Don’t get me wrong, Seinfeld’s performance and material is great. It’s just that the focus on jokes has meant that plot and character have not been fleshed out as much as they should have. A perfect example of this is Zellweger’s florist character, she is neither very memorable nor endearing and exists simply to move the plot from point A to B.
Even the twisted friendship/love relationship between Barry and Vanessa Bloome – at times you think they might just get it on, seriously – while certainly putting a new spin on relationships in an animated movie did more to exclude me from the story because I found my suspension of disbelief being tested.
Bee Movie is an interesting – and perhaps even disturbing – film because its core values work in direct opposition to most other animated features. Where Pixar’s films are driven by characteristics of individuality working within a “family” unit (think The Incredibles or Monsters Inc.), Bee Movie shows that individuality and free thinking are negative qualities that only lead to trouble.
Doing as you’re told and fitting in – because its the right thing to do – are encouraged. Not a bad moral – in the right circumstances – but certainly one that goes against the grain of established animated conventions. Whether this is a good thing or not, I’m still not sure.
Bee Movie is an enjoyable watch that will keep you amused for 90 minutes but it simply cannot compete with the year’s best animated film, Ratatouille. There is no doubt that getting Jerry Seinfeld on board was an intelligent and inspired move on the part of the filmmakers. His brand of deadpan humor separates Bee Movie from the dregs of the animated features that have been released in recent years (Finding Nemo clone – The Reef anyone?) but it isn’t enough to make the film truly memorable or even remarkable.
Bee Movie is enjoyable but, sadly, rather forgettable once you’ve left the cinema.