Bee Movie [DVD]
Director : Steve Hickner & Simon J. Smith
Screenplay : Jerry Seinfeld and Spike Feresten & Barry Marder & Andy Robin
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2007
On the face of it Bee Movie certainly seems like an odd way for Jerry Seinfeld to re-enter the pop culture limelight. After nearly a decade of lying low following the sign-off of his signature sitcom, Seinfeld's choice to spend nearly four years cowriting, producing, and starring in a CG-animated movie about bees is nothing if not unexpected, and while the resulting movie isn't exactly a homerun, it has just enough Seinfeldian humor to keep it afloat. In fact, it's hard not to draw parallels between Bee Movie and Seinfeld considering that three of the film's four credited screenwriters wrote for the sitcom.
Seinfeld lends his immediately distinctive voice to Barry B. Benson, a young bee just graduated from school who is dismayed to learn that his future entails little more than choosing a honey-producing-related job and then working it for the rest of his life (the response to his exasperated orientation-day question “You're going to work us to death?” is a polite chuckle and a “We sure hope so!”). One day he slips out of the hive with the “pollen jocks,” the bee version of Top Gun pilots who are responsible for gathering pollen, and is intoxicated with the sweet freedom of flying around in the great outdoors (or, in this case, Manhattan--this is a Seinfeld movie, after all). Barry's escape provides for some vertiginous bee-perspective flying around Central Park and then through the helter-skelter of New York traffic, not to mention some unexpected involvement in a tennis game (apparently, insects are in danger of getting caught in tennis ball fuzz).
It is during this time that Barry meets a human named Vanessa (Renée Zellweger) to whom he makes the decision to talk (an act that is strictly verboten, which explains why the human race is unaware that insects can talk). They strike up a fast friendship, much to the dismay of Vanessa's grumpy boyfriend Ken (Patrick Warburton). The movie plays lightly with the idea of interspecies romance between Barry and Vanessa, although the obvious proportion problems involved are enough to all but guarantee that this relationship with remain chaste.
The crux of the story, though, involves Barry's decision to sue the human race after he discovers that humans have not only been stealing honey from bees, but has literally enslaved them on honey farms, which from his perspective are little more than forced work camps (the film amusingly depicts the human-constructed hives as inner-city tenement high-rises). So, we get an amusing courtroom sequence in which humans are defended by a blustery, Southern-fried attorney voiced by John Goodman and Sting is called to the stand to defend his name, as is Ray Liotta, whose signature line of honey Barry finds particularly distasteful. Along with an appearance by a bee version of Larry King, these celebrity cameos have a whiff of desperation to them, although Liotta's Emmy-clutching, borderline psycho animated counterpart has a deliciously funny vibe to it.
The problem with the legal narrative development is that it ultimately puts Bee Movie in a straightjacket of its own making. Part of the movie's fun is Barry's desire to break free from the unyieldingly conformist nature of bee society, yet in suing the human race he is implicitly defending that society and its rights to what it produces. The real problem, though, is what happens after the verdict, which I won't divulge, but I will say that it causes Barry to rethink what he has done (in this way,Bee Movie is very much like an episode of Seinfeld in which one of Jerry's great ideas--remember poor Babu's Pakistani restaurant?--turns out to have disastrous consequences). There is a lot of diversionary mayhem in the final 10 minutes, but it can't disguise the fact that the movie is forced by its own volition to do an about-face and celebrate the very conformity that it had earlier dismissed. Maybe it would have been better for Seinfeld to make an animated movie about nothing.
|Bee Movie A Very Jerry 2-Disc Edition DVD|
|Bee Movie is also available in a single-disc edition (SRP $29.98).|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||DreamWorks Animation SKG Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||March 11, 2008|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Like DreamWorks Animation's other computer-animated films, Bee Movie looks gorgeous on DVD. The mastering of the anamorphic widescreen transfer has produced beautiful, translucent colors (note how good light looks refracting through honey throughout the film) and outstanding detail, from the individual hairs on the bee characters to the enlarged surfaces of the human world. According to the supplements, this is the most advanced and ambitious computer-animated films DreamWorks has made thus far, and it shows. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround is also first-rate, enveloping us in the film's multiple environments, whether it be inside the hive as the “pollen jocks” take off and fly past us or whether it be in the heart of Manhattan as Barry buzzes through traffic. Technically, I can't imagine this disc being much better.|
|On the first disc you can listen to audio commentary with Jerry Seinfeld, who is joined with several of the writers, the two directors, a producer, and the editor (the commentary was recorded before the film's theatrical release since they say they're seeing it for the first time with completed effects). Give the wide variety of participants, the commentary is nicely varied and informative, giving us plenty of insight into the various areas of computer-animated filmmaking. Also on the first disc are three “lost” scenes and six alternate endings, each of which is introduced by Seinfeld and presented as an animated storyboard with full sound since they never made it past that stage. As far as marketing goes, the disc contains all 16 of the “Bee Movie TV Juniors,” which are brief, live-action promos that ran on NBC. Some of them are funny (especially the first one featuring DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg and his lawyer), while others are a bit flat). Also included are both of the film's live-action trailers. |
The second disc opens with the 7-minute featurette “Tech of Bee Movie,” which looks at the computer technology used to bring the film to life (23 million render hours, 3 million more than Shrek the Third!), although frankly at times it plays a little too much like a Hewlett-Packard commercial. Next is “Meet Barry B. Benson,” a semi-interactive featurette in which you select various questions (11 in all) to “ask” Barry, which are then answered with clips from the film. The disc is rounded out with a music video for “We Got the Bee” and the DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox, which allows you to select musical clips from various animated DreamWorks films, including all three Shrek films, Flushed Away, Over the Hedge, Shark Tale, and Madagascar. There is also a section on this disc labeled “DreamWorks Kids” that features supplements for the shorter set, including educational featurettes, trivia challenges, and a simple video game.
Copyright ©2008 James Kendrick
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All images copyright © DreamWorks Animation SKG Home Entertainment