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Jerry-built

Seinfeld’s Bee Movie gets a D-
By PETER KEOUGH  |  October 31, 2007
0.5 0.5 Stars


VIDEO: The trailer for Bee Movie

Bee Movie | Directed by Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith | Written by Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, and Andy Robin | With Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock, and Kathy Bates | Paramount Pictures | 90 Minutes

Buzz words: TV's 'A' star makes a Bee Movie. By Lloyd Schwartz.

One day, Jerry Seinfeld was talking with his good friend Steven Spielberg, and he said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if ‘B’ movies were really about bees?” Steven, the genius behind high-concept moviemaking, rocked with laughter. “Do it!” he roared. And so, $150 million in production costs and at least that much in promotional expenditure later (could the recent bee plague be part of their ubiquitous campaign?), Bee Movie is born. And that’s about as funny as this story gets.

Not for lack of trying. Jerry and his platoon of writers must have been as busy as you-know-what coming up with all the half-baked ideas, one springing from the other, none of it adding up to anything except bewilderment and annoyance. It takes a lot of time and talent to come up with a bee name like Barry B. Benson (voiced by Seinfeld, whose voice by the end of the film has become an insufferable — uh — drone). Barry has just graduated from college with his pal Adam (Matthew Broderick), and now they wait, along with their countless alumni, for the jobs they’ll work at for the rest of their lives, things like “Crud Remover” and “Stirrer” — positions not unlike those at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain, I suppose.

But Barry dreams of something outside the hive. There must be more to life than this, he thinks, and we agree. And so he joins the pollen patrol and, in one of the film’s few moments of visual bravura, flies out from the orange and yellow tackiness of home into the giddy colors of Central Park.

Now if this reminds you of Woody Allen in Antz, by all means rent that movie and see something worthwhile. Barry, meanwhile, having been grounded by a rainstorm, ends up in the window box of Vanessa (Renée Zellweger, trying really hard to sound flabbergasted), breaks the cardinal rule of beedom by talking (and talking and talking) to a human, and falls in love . . .

Nah, that won’t do. And sues the food corporations that have been stealing the bees’ honey. Much funnier! Worker bees of the world, unite! And when nationalized nectar proves an even bigger dud than the Soviet experiment, Barry joins Vanessa on a plane to the last Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena so his bee pals can repollinate the world, but the pilots get knocked out, so . . .

Zzzz. Where was I? Oh, yes, Marxism. When Karl doesn’t work, there’s always Groucho, and Jerry does have a few zingers (most, no doubt, already aired in his inescapable TV-ad campaign “Bee Movie minutes”). Directors Steve Hickner (The Prince of Egypt) and Simon J. Smith might be credited with a rare, inspired visual gag: the beehive hairdo actually made me laugh. And when Barry starts nonsensically cross-examining the musician Sting (Sting) in court and the film gleefully loses all semblance of coherence, I thought this was the direction it should go — total absurdity. But no, there are lessons to be learned and more plot lines to unravel. (At least there are no songs.)

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