Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Ana de la Reguera
Directors: Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith
Script: Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, Andy Robin
Rated: PG, for suggestive humor and a scene with a cigarette
Bee Movie has the potential to be the next great children’s movie if kids hit the theater in droves. In its favor are animation, slapstick and “The Little Engine That Could” factor, elements that could make it a successful-repeat performance once it moves to video.
The flick has appeal for adults, too. For Seinfeld fans, this Jerry Seinfeld creation offers a lot. The script, which the comedian co-wrote with three others, is full of opportunities to punctuate the also actor’s comic riffs. If you like his standup, you’ll love Bee Movie.
The PG-13 rating for suggestive material and cigarette smoking, though, seems a little unwarranted. Kids won’t understand the double entendres, and it’s likely they’ve already encountered cigarette smoke, which is negatively portrayed in the movie.
Seinfeld – who also gets a producing credit for the film – provides the voice for the character Barry B. Benson, a honeybee just graduating from college and about to select his lifelong profession at Honex, the honey-making bee corporation. After a short homage to the pool scene in The Graduate, Barry leaves the hive to go in search of himself. Along the way, he breaks the first law of beedom and befriends a human, Vanessa (voiced by Renée Zellweger), a Columbus Avenue florist. The human characters have to accept one simple truth: Bees can talk. They speak English.
Like the Seinfeld sitcom, the plot follows the law of unintended consequences as Barry discovers that humans are taking honey and selling it with no compensation for the bees. He sues the company, facing a judge voiced by Oprah Winfrey. And with the help of his human buddy Vanessa, he wins.
The trial features cameos from Ray Liotta, Sting and Larry King, who voice themselves and aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves, a touch that will resonate well with adult viewers.
Matthew Broderick shines as Barry’s sidekick, as do Barry Levinson and Kathy Bates as Barry’s parents, and Chris Rock as Mooseblood the mosquito. Direction by Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith shows no egotism, and music is entirely appropriate to the subject matter.
One quirky scene may be an issue for Latino audience members. A Hispanic supermarket box boy attacks Barry with a thumbtack. Could it be payback for the political reaction to the second-to-last Seinfeld episode in which Kramer is attacked for putting out a fire on a burning Puerto Rican flag by stomping on it? We can only ask.
The film had a budget of $150 million, and we’re sure Bee Movie will make back its investment and then some.