Screenwriter: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten
Starring: Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock
Running time: 90 mins
Akin to a classic Simpsons episode, Bee Movie contains a barrage of visual humour, verbal wit and stinging pop-culture references that are sure to engage and delight viewers of all ages. At its core though, lies a message of kindness and compassion urging us to respect life in all its shapes, sizes and species.
The prospect of that will have many reaching for the sick bag no doubt, but unlike other 'message movies', there's a distinct lack of schmaltzy sentimentality. Bee Movie never loses track of its central aim to make us smile.
An idealistic young bee called Barry (Seinfeld) decides to break the mould by rejecting his career path of serving the Queen and making honey by venturing to the outside world, where he strikes up a friendship with Vanessa (Zellweger), a caring young lady who saves him from a swatting. A particularly cute moment occurs when the pair first make physical contact, with Barry's tiny bee hand delicately touching Vanessa's fingertip. Thankfully that's as far as it goes, as the world still hasn’t recovered from the infamous inter-species shag in Howard The Duck.
Barry decides to break bee laws by striking up a conversation with her. But after discovering how bees are exploited for their honey, he dares to take the human race to court…
The idea is certainly clever and original, and there's a couple of sudden twists along the way that rip away our safety blanket and heighten the drama. Jerry Seinfeld evokes a sense of wonder and enthusiasm for life throughout his vocal turn as Barry, while conveying an underlying sense of the naivety that threatens to turn the world grey. As Vanessa, Renée Zellweger exudes charm, although her character loses appeal later in the movie when she blames Barry for the consequences of his legal action. This was a strange path for her to take, given that she is clearly meant to be a sympathetic character.
There's plenty of wonderful cameos to heighten interest along the way, with John Goodman's cunning and boisterous lawyer a real highlight. Chris Rock's mosquito also uses the comic's persona to full effect with an array of zany wisecracks, including an inspired one-liner at the end that won't win any friends amongst the legal profession. Furthermore, both Sting and Ray Liotta poke fun at the public perception of them by playing themselves.
On a visual level, there's nothing groundbreaking at all on offer, which works in the film's favour by allowing us to focus more on the supreme plot. It still manages to look fabulous though, particularly when the bee squadrons buzz in and around the city scouring for nectar and pollinating beds of flowers. A sense of wonder and amazement at the beauty of nature is evoked, although it's perhaps not the best educational tool for the young'uns. Well, unless bees really can talk.
A near-perfect family film, Bee Movie functions on many levels, tickling the ribs and touching the heart of minds old and young without ever feeling contrived.