Bee Movie offers a mixed bag of kids animation, both in terms of its look and plotting. It has some great sight gags, funny zingers, and a few decent ideas, but it’s undercooked. It feels like a nice concept, but it can be creepy and the ending doesn’t make much sense either.
Jerry Seinfeld voices Barry B. Benson, a soon-to-bee worker bee (sorry) who longs for a better life. As such, he ventures out of the hive and attempts to interact with humans, for better of worse. The film pulls its concept from the likes of Bug’s Life, Ant Bully, and vaguely, Antz. It feels like audiences have been taken into the world of cute, digitally animated insects a few times too many.
For much of the first half hour, Bee Movie feels like it’s in a creative void. We’re introduced to the main characters, the hive process, and general bee life. It’s not particularly funny or entertaining. The look, with a few basic colors, is drab as well. As Barry takes to the skies in an effort to see the outside world, things pick up. Color creeps into the picture, and the plot can finally pick up some steam.
It’s creepy that a woman who saves Barry’s life suddenly becomes attached to him, Seinfeld or not. There are few points where the script honestly attempts to make them a couple, which for a countless number of reasons, goes against everything nature intended (and the physics wouldn’t work out either).
The human world quickly adjusts to the fact that insects can talk, and Barry files a lawsuit against the human race for stealing honey. This is where the film begins to pick up, with a hilarious conversation between Barry and Bee Larry King. Ray Liotta has a funny cameo, and the entire judicial process, for all of its absurdities, is well done.
Unfortunately, the resolution for all of this doesn’t make much sense. The bees fought to not have to work so hard to make honey, yet in the end, they do it anyway. Things go right back as they were, which is not only a cop-out, it feels like this entire movie was a waste of time. The bees don’t gain anything, the humans still get their honey, and the world lives happily ever after (and the human/bee relationship continues, apparently). Why did we have to sit through all of that to get nowhere again?
For kids, with the exception of an odd suicide pact conversation (which is funny, but the little ones will be very confused), the colorful environments and likeable lead character will probably get them through this. After that, it’s right back to Pixar.
Bee Movie is everything you’d expect from computer animation in HD. Colors are stunning, depth is remarkable, and detail is unmatched. The transfer is as sharp as it possibly can be, and the black levels maintain themselves, creating a wonderful sense of depth. Contrast is flawless. Banding, artificial enhancement, and artifacting steer clear of this presentation.
The TrueHD audio mix isn’t quite as spectacular, but it’s still special in its own right. The audio cleanly tracks motion through every speaker. The stereo channels are used often and every time you expect them, the surrounds kick in as well. If there’s any complaint, it’s that the bass isn’t always consistent, but when it’s at its peak, it’s room-shakingly good.
The film comes to Blu-ray with an extensive set of extras. A commentary from Jerry Seinfeld and five of the filmmakers (including co-directors Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith) is loaded. Lots of pop-up features are here, including the Animator’s Corner, a picture-in-picture that has storyboards running along with the film. Barry’s Trivia Track is a self-explanatory PiP feature, providing general factoids.
World of Bees digs into the characters and the actors that play them through an overlay menu. Deleted scenes, including a load of alternate endings and an optional commentary, run 20 minutes. None of the scenes are finished. There’s an entire section for the kids, plus loads of funny promotional trailers. Various featurettes focus on the cast, the animation, and other behind-the-scenes stuff.