Here's the biggest problem most folks will have with Bee Movie: It's not Ratatouille. Both films have a lot in common with one another, except the latter is far greater in terms of story, character and overall charm. And if Ratatouille hadn't arrived only a few short months ago, I might have felt differently about Bee Movie. Instead, I walked away feeling a bit jaded, expecting more from a man who had entertained me for so many years on one of my favorite television shows of all time. But that's not to say Bee Movie is a bad film; it will most certainly entertain the youngsters with its colorful, larger-than-life spirit, and there are enough adult-orientated gems scattered throughout to make it worthy of your family's hard-earned cash. But when your kids turn to you and whisper, "I liked the one with the rat better," don't say I never told you so.
If you're not aware of this film by now, then I'd seriously take a look around because you might, quite literally, be living in a bubble. The film is co-written by, produced by and stars the voice of Jerry Seinfeld, and the man has been buzzing "Pssst ... Bee Movie -- pass it on ...) in our ears for months. When he wasn't dressed up in a giant bee costume, hanging from a construction crane in France, he was promoting the film through commercials, television shows. From what I hear, several people claim the man actually entered their dreams at one point to promote Bee Movie. It's been nearly a decade since Seinfeld (the television show) ended, and it might take another 10 years for the man to do something else. Problem is, after Bee Movie, I'm not sure we'd mind.
The weakest part of Bee Movie is its story (penned by Seinfeld and Spike Fereston). Like so many of the animated animal characters that have come before him, Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld) is an ordinary bee who longs to learn about life outside the hive. Upset that he's graduated college with one job prospect (and only one, for a bee that is) -- making honey -- Barry, against the advice of his best neurotic pal Adam (Matthew Broderick), decides to risk one flight with the pollen jocks (a group of hard-edged, macho pollen collectors) and sets out into the world of New York City. But Barry soon gets thrown off his path -- in a dizzying, yet magnificent-looking flying sequence -- only to wind up in the apartment of Vanessa (Renée Zellweger) and her "I YELL WHEN I SPEAK FOR SOME REASON " boy ... friend Ken (Seinfeld alum Patrick Warburton, doing the exact same voice he performs on Family Guy).
Following your standard "human freaks out when the animal speaks" sequence, the two become best buds, share a few awkward (and creepy) sexual tension silences, and ... that's about it. When Barry discovers that humans steal honey for mass distribution, he gets pissed, gets help from Vanessa and sues the entire human race. But does he have a case? The problem with Barry and Vanessa's relationship is that, unlike Ratatouille, they don't need one another. Vanessa isn't anything special -- she's confident in being a florist, loves what she does -- and Barry's arrival is more of a headache than a blessing in disguise. You'd think Barry might need Vanessa to help him sue the entire human race, but the film never shows us that -- before you know it, we're in a courtroom filled with bees and humans, and Barry argues his case to a sloppy, Southern cliche-ridden prosecutor (John Goodman) and room full of people who, conveniently, have no problem with the fact that these bees all talk. But it's a cartoon; we get that, and so these little tidbits just annoy those of us who expect more from folks like Seinfeld.
But he does give us some fun stuff in between, enough to rise this little flick up near the top of the year's best animated films (though its competition wasn't all that strong). The most enjoyable scenes to watch take place inside the hive, in a world popping with pastel, where Barry argues with his parents (Kathy Bates and director Barry Levinson), clowns around with Adam and explores the inner-workings of Honex; the hive's honey-producing corporation. Seinfeld manages to sprinkle a fair amount of bee-ish humor throughout (including one exchange where his parents wonder if Barry is dating a wasp -- get it?), and, surprisingly, it's a cameo performance from Chris Rock (playing a blood-sucking mosquito on a never-ending quest to find his next fix) that steals the show. Rock should stick with animation; he's ten-times funnier at it than in live action flicks.
Visually, the film looks good but it still doesn't shine as bright as Pixar. One scene in particular, in which Barry is stuck to a tennis ball that's smacked across a court, stands out as one of the best, but there's nothing here we haven't seen before in a variety of other animated flicks. Still, Bee Movie will entertain, it will make a lot of money at the box office, and it will teach the little ones a little something about mother nature. Interestingly enough, Vanessa's flower shop in the film is located on 67th street and Columbus Avenue in New York City. On that same corner, in real life, stands a building that houses ABC, who are owned by Disney. Is there a message there? Was Seinfeld trying to say that he wished his film could've been made by Pixar? I'm sure we'll never know ...