(2007) dir. Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith
viewed: 11/03/07 at Century San Francisco Centre, SF, CA
I like to take my kids to the movies. It’s a fun experience for both them and myself, and I do it with good regularity. For the past few months, after weeks of steady releases of age-appropriate fare, there has been an utter dearth of films that I could take them to. So when Bee Movie finally arrived on the big screens here on Friday, I readily took them to a film that looked pretty damn lame to me from the very first, simply because it was out there, and it’s not always about my own discernement.
Bee Movie is actually pretty damn lame. Despite the assumed pedigree of having been co-written and starring Jerry Seinfeld, the whole thing, even down to its title, seemed completely boring and uninspired. Hollywood studios have been pumping out feature computer animated films in increasing speed since the success of Pixar’s early films, and oddly enough, the first odd double whammy was the close releases of Dreamworks SKG (same studio here) first foray into the animation field, the pretty lame Antz (1998), another film about an insect who just “wants to be himself” while in a culture of drones also starring the voice of another noted comedian/actor, Woody Allen. Yes, and Pixar’s far more engaging A Bug’s Life (1998), which was much less generic…perhaps an ironic commentary on the other two films whose subject matter suggested a yen for the non-generic.
Bee Movie isn’t awful. I mean, it’s entertaining enough, only occasionally leaning toward boredom. It’s fine in that sense. But the narrative itself is really hard to appreciate. Starting out with Seinfeld’s Barry the bee, who doesn’t want to be just another bee in the hive, the film eventually, quite far into it, turns toward a battle for bees to get their due for all the honey that people “steal” from them. This eventually works out but then causes ecological crisis when the bees no longer need to work or pollinate and they have to rescue the world by getting back to work and re-establishing the world order.
I can’t really say if it’s just me or that basic storyline is indeed as lame as it is. I can think of even worse animated films that I’ve seen that have better basic storylines. It’s like a story made up by someone who doesn’t know what makes a good story.
The animation is slick and polished, but part of what had put me off of the film was the design of Barry the bee. This is probably more personal aesthetic taste than anything, but I found him unengaging. After a while in the film this didn’t bother me as much, but I’d say that the overall visual style, much like the narrative, is just plain uninspired. Maybe it’s just the difficulty of designing a big world full of digitally animated insects which have been done before in big ways. I don’t know.
Ironically, I finally got the pun of the title, which I say is ironic because this is no “b-movie” but a major big screen release with lots of pomp and promotion. And where I’d probably prefer to see it again before having to watch Antz again, I certainly have no desire to re-watch this film whatsoever. I know that I’m a broken record, especially on some topics, but quite frankly, I look very forward to seeing Pixar’s Brad Bird’s Ratatouille (2007) again, and honestly think that it is one of the best films that I have seen this year. Other animation studios have yet to come close to the quality and imagination that Pixar offers. In fact, I recommend renting it as soon as you can if you haven’t seen it. That is a true “A” movie.