Movie News & Reviews

Honey, Seinfeld's buzzing the kids

In case you haven't heard by now, in case you haven't read the countless newspaper and magazine articles or have been inundated with those annoying "TV Juniors" shorts while watching "The Office," Jerry Seinfeld stars in his own computer-animated movie today.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that he hasn't appeared in an animated movie before. I mean, if ever there was a celebrity whose own voice was made to come out of a cartoon character, it's Seinfeld.

"Bee Movie" has him fluttering around as Barry B. Benson, a young college graduate who is going through what practically every cartoon creature goes through in the movies these days: He wants to do more with his life than nature intended him to. In this case, he doesn't want to be another working-class bee producing honey for The Man, uh, Bee.

An outside-the-hive venture with a team of "pollen jocks" has him interacting and sparking up a friendship with Vanessa (Renee Zellweger), a human florist who is obviously taken aback that she can carry on a conversation with a bee.

For a movie about flying insects, "Bee Movie" is just as erratic. Visually, it possesses all the subtlety of a Black Flag concert. (OK, perhaps that's the wrong punk band to reference right there.) "Bee" jets through its 90 minutes as though its makers know that children's teeny, little minds will be bored to tears if any character stops to do something substantial for more than two minutes.

So the movie goes about wowing you (or numbing you -- however you look at it) with its dizzyingly animated sequences.

But "Bee" is also erratic plot-wise. As Benson discovers that humans are profiting from bees' hard work by selling their precious honey, he takes the major food corporations to court (where they are represented by a corn pone Southern lawyer, voiced to the hambone hilt by John Goodman).

Somehow, some way, Seinfeld and his team of writers (including a couple of former "Seinfeld" scribes) dovetail this with an even more nonsensical climax that manages to preach the importance of bees to the environment -- because, it seems, you can't do an animated feature these days without letting parents know how much the planet is going into the dumps for their little ones.

Hence, the moral of the story: Stop killing bees with copies of Italian Vogue!

For all its accelerated absurdity and nature pearls of wisdom, "Bee" isn't that distinct from the 2,000 other CGI cartoon features that have come out. It certainly doesn't improve on Dreamworks' first (and still best) animated feature "Antz," released nine years ago. (If Dreamworks is going alphabetically with movies about insects, I guess we'll have to look forward to a caterpillar cartoon next.)

If anything, "Bee" appears to be more shticky than other cartoon movies, with Seinfeld & Co. laying out hit-and-miss gags (more the latter than the former) for ADD-addled kiddies.

It's also more star-powered than any cartoon I remember: Matthew Broderick, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, Oprah Winfrey, Sting, Ray Liotta -- even Michael "I So Need a Job Right Now" Richards does a voice. Who knew so many celebrities owed Seinfeld favors?

But even with these stars providing voices, "Bee Movie" is yet another computer-generated animated feature that ultimately turns out to be more of a loud, uncontrollable nuisance than the buzzing hymenopterans that are front and center.