My Take On… #227: Is Bee Movie An Underrated Masterpiece?

Ah, the internet, for one thing, it’s a great medium where any talented person can get what they want to say or do out to the public to hopefully get attention but at the same time, it’s a place where any jackass or nitwit can get what they want to say or do out to the public hopefully get attention. In the last few years, we’ve had memes and resurgences of things that should never have been and people just decide to bring back out for no reason whatsoever.

One of the more recent examples has been the shockingly surprising resurgence of the 2007 DreamWorks animated movie, Bee Movie. You’ve probably seen these floating around in the last few months:

Yeah….I don’t get it either. There have been some attempts to explain the phenomenon: Jason Richards, whom Vanity Fair identified as one of the larger promoters of the meme via his @Seinfield2000 Twitter handle has noted the “off-brand Pixar quality” as possible reason. It has also been suggested that the spread of such videos was inspired by the preceding popularity of the We Are Number One meme, due to the similarity in content spawned by both phenomenons. Even Vanity Fair can’t figure it out.

But it does make me wonder if Bee Movie was actually worth something? Let’s not forget this years marks 10 years since that movie came out….good lord, I’m getting old, that was 10 years ago?…so why not take a look and see if Bee Movie is actually worth something. Is Bee Movie an underrated masterpiece? Let’s find out:

Bee movie ver2.jpg

I remember Bee Movie being such a big deal when it was coming out, DreamWorks had been on a roll up to the point of November 2006 with the Shrek films, Madagascar, Over The Hedge, Wallace & Gromit: Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, and Flushed Away and then all of a sudden, in November 2006, a full year before it was coming out, the teaser for Bee Movie came out and it was…an odd tease to say the least:

I mean, yeah, it was a pretty odd concept for a teaser and then, the second teaser came out with pretty much the same basic idea:

What a lot of people don’t remember about Bee Movie was that it was the first major scripted project from Jerry Seinfeld since Seinfeld had ended 9 years prior. Granted he made guest spots on shows such as Mad About You, Dilbert, and Curb Your Enthusiasm but unlike his Seinfeld co-stars, he never did another starring TV or movie project, except for the 2002 documentary film Comedian, so this was a big return for Seinfeld so he made sure people knew about this…and BOY did, he make sure people know.

Because Seinfeld was on NBC, NBC helped a lot in getting the buzz (no pun intended) out on Bee Movie. 30 Rock did a very funny episode with Seinfeld in it that even has a line promoting Bee Movie in it and then, NBC had these Bee Movie TV Juniors shorts in which Seinfeld would have these little 3 minute segments that would air in the middle of the NBC Thursday comedy lineup. I mean, they were promoting this movie big time….which may have led to it not becoming a massive hit.

It didn’t do horrible business, it brought in $287.6 million worldwide over its’ $150 million budget and was profitable but was not a Madagascar or Shrek style hit and got beaten by the Russell Crowe/Denzel Washington movie American Gangster that opened on the same weekend.

But let’s actually talk about the movie itself. Does the movie itself actually hold up better or worse? Let’s find out:

Bee Movie is a 2007 American computer animated family comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Directed by Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner, the film stars Jerry Seinfeld and Renée Zellweger, with Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman and Chris Rock in supporting roles. Its story follows Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld), a honey bee who sues the human race for exploiting bees after learning from his florist friend Vanessa (Zellweger) that humans sell and consume honey.

Bee Movie is the first motion-picture script to be written by Seinfeld, who co-wrote the film with Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, and Andy Robin. The film was produced by Seinfeld, Christina Steinberg, and Cameron Stevning. The production was designed by Alex McDowell, and Christophe Lautrette was the art director. Nick Fletcher was the supervising editor and music for the film was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams.

The cast and crew include some veterans of Seinfeld’s long-running NBC sitcom Seinfeld, including writer/producers Feresten and Robin, and actors Warburton (Seinfeld character David Puddy), Michael Richards (Seinfeld character Cosmo Kramer), and Larry Miller (who plays the title character on the Seinfeld episode “The Doorman”). Coincidentally, NBC was host to the broadcast television premiere of the film on November 27, 2010.

So, the overall story does not sound very exciting and sounds very cliché plotwise but when you actually watch the movie again, they do try to stem away from a lot of the clichés you would expect. Like, for example, in the beginning, Barry and his friend Adam run into a group of Pollen Jocks, bees who collect pollen from flowers outside the hive. The Jocks offer to take Barry outside the hive to a flower patch, and he accepts. I thought the jocks were going to be just the complete dicks at first but the next day when Barry shows up, they’re like “hey, it’s cool, we’re taking him out.” I’m glad they steer away from much of the clichés that would come from a movie like this, they do have a couple of cliché moments in there but not enough to ruin the movie itself.

Several subplots in this surprisingly get pushed off to the side, the whole thing in the beginning about the bees have to have their job immediately after they graduate, never mentioned again. The whole thing about Barry dating Vanessa, never mentioned again. Her kind of….having somewhat of an affair with the bee over her husband, never mentioned again. A lot of these arcs they try to build in here just somehow peter off into something completely different, it kind of hurts the film a bit.

But what carries the movie through are a few key elements, the animation, while not up to Dreamworks’ highest standards is still impressive to look at. Though there are times where they still can’t get some of the human faces down, I mean, hell, look at Ray Liotta’s face in this movie. But when they show the flying scenes in this, they look spectacular.

The humor in this is surprisingly really funny, there are those obvious bee puns that they throw in there just because they feel obligated to but overall, a lot of the humor in this movie did make me laugh pretty hard. There’s even a hilariously cruel joke involving Winnie The Pooh and Piglet that did make me laugh pretty hard. There even are some jokes that I think most kids would not get but the adults would, even some really obscure jokes, again involving Ray Liotta in one of them.

The cast is very likeable in this, Jerry Seinfeld does seem very committed to the project, there’s never a point where you feel like he’s embarrassed by what he’s doing and the chemistry he has with Renee Zellweger is nicely done too. You also have a lot of good voice work from Megan Mullally, Larry Miller, Patrick Warburton, Chris Rock, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Rip Torn, Larry King, Barry Levinson, Kathy Bates, Oprah Winfrey, everybody in the cast is used very well.

So, is Bee Movie an underrated masterpiece? I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a masterpiece but I do think it’s one of the more lesser known good DreamWorks animated movies. Unlike a movie like Sharktale, which this movie definitely has a lot of that feel, there’s more in Bee Movie that works than it does in Sharktale from the animation to the voice work to the humor, Bee Movie just comes off as a better made movie. I think what hurt it in the end was the overhyped marketing that made it seemed like this movie was going to be the second coming of Jesus but I would say definitely give it another watch again and you might actually be very surprised by what this movie actually was, a overall good DreamWorks animated movie that has gotten lost in the shuffle.

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