Bee Movie (2008)

Directed by Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith. Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson. DreamWorks.

Decent Films Ratings

Overall
Recommendability
?C
Artistic/
Entertainment Value
?
Moral/Spiritual
Value (+4/-4)
? +0
Age
Appropriateness
?Kids & Up

External Ratings

MPAA ?PG USCCB ?A-I

Content advisory: Mild innuendo; rampant stupidity.

From a National Catholic Register review

By Steven D. Greydanus

As bright-hued as it is dim-witted, Bee Movie is a scattered oddity of a film, combining candy-colored computer animation, occasionally laugh-out-loud absurdist humor and such profound stupidity about birds and bees — and flowers and trees — that kids watching it will actually lose “facts-of-life” IQ points. Which, for the record, is not a good thing.

Written by Jerry Seinfeld, reportedly after a chance joke to Steven Spielberg about “a B-movie with real bees” was taken seriously as a movie pitch, Bee Movie is as pop-culture savvy as it is biologically challenged. It’s an urban comedy about the circle of life made by filmmakers a generation too many removed from life on the farm, set in the same gender-confused universe as Barnyard, with its male “cows” with udders.

The plot centers on an apian protagonist who, much like Woody Allen’s ant(i)-hero in DreamWorks’ freshman CGI film Antz, is a nonconformist insect in a hive world of conformity. Honeybee Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld) doesn’t want to go into honey work. Good thing he’s a male, since drones don’t make honey. Oh wait, in this world they do. In fact, nectar gathering is the work of macho flyboy “pollen jock” bees who are idolized by adoring female groupies and envied by civilian males. In reality, of course, females do all the work, while male bees have no function but to mate with the queen, the only reproducing female in the hive. (I guess Barry’s “parents” adopted.)

That’s only the beginning. Every well-educated schoolchild knows that bees fertilize plants — that is, in gathering nectar they spread pollen from plant to plant, facilitating botanical reproduction. Bee Movie’s bees “fertilize” plants too, but in a completely different sense of the word — the sense in which farmers “fertilize” crops by spreading compost or other compounds on them. “Pollen” in this universe is essentially magic plant food; without it, plants start to wither and die, but, once “fertilized” by the bees, they recover and flourish.

What’s more, pollen is pollen, which means that every plant and crop on earth can easily be “fertilized” by pollen gathered from a planeful of roses from a flower show. That’s not even getting into the completely bizarre romantic rivalry for the human Vanessa (Renée Zellweger) between Barry and her human boyfriend (Patrick Warburton). Yes: It’s a romantic triangle with a bee, a girl and a guy. What’s more, Barry has a stinger (something male bees lack, having sex organs instead), so he’s got nothing to offer even a female bee. Are we stupid enough yet?

The boilerplate answer to all of this, I guess, is “Kids won’t care.” Well, my kids would. And if kids don’t care, they should. And their parents should care whether they care. That’s why God gave kids parents.

Bee Movie isn’t a complete waste. There are some genuinely funny bits, especially the nutty courtroom scene. I laughed enough to more or less balance out the annoyance of the stupidity. And there is something dreamily appealing about the flight sequences, with their roving camera and pastel-colored world. A scene set on the windshield of a moving car, though, may be the most persuasive in the film — a glaring reminder of the kind of human-insect interaction that likely represents the filmmakers’ first-hand experience with their subject matter.

Tags: Animation, Comedy, Family

Related Content

Mail: Re: Bee Movie

In your review of Bee Movie, I was surprised you didn’t take issue with the courtroom scene about the defense lawyer, an obvious slight against Christians in the same demeaning spirit as Inherit the Wind. I found the film to be mildly amusing too, but found this to be yet another stab at the Christian faith that isn’t really necessary for the film to be funny. (We get it, Hollywood. You hate us!) Still … as if any educated soul would take it to mean that man was put on this earth “by Almighty God” to exploit creation rather than be good stewards of it is bigotry. Couldn’t the writer have kept religion out of it? If Mel Gibson gets a slap for stereotyping Jews, why not Jerry Seinfeld — who apparently gets a pass by you, defenders of the film The Passion of the Christ.

I have to confess I barely remember the Bee Movie moment you describe. The gag in question sounds like an absurdist caricature of a religious attitude, not a realistic depiction of an educated interpretation of the scripture. Even if it’s a swipe, I’m not sure it’s totally unfair; even if they wouldn’t put it that way, some Christians do seem to feel more or less the way the gag suggests.

In any case, a throwaway gag, however problematic, isn’t remotely in the same league as the systematic agenda of Inherit the Wind or the complex but problematic portrayal of the Jews in The Passion of the Christ. Even to mention them in the same breath trivializes the issues under discussion in connection with the latter two films.

I’m not sure what you mean by “defenders of the film The Passion of the Christ.” I tried to deal with the subject of The Passion’s depiction of the Jews in a nuanced way, acknowledging the problematic aspects while clarifying what some felt were outright antisemitic elements. I don’t think The Passion is antisemitic, though I do think it has problematic elements. See my article The Passion of the Christ and Antisemitism” for more.

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