Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 7:46 am | Fair 45º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Bee Movie’

Seinfeld movie drones on despite a honey of an opportunity.

2 Stars — Shallow

Jerry Seinfeld‘s Bee Movie  doesn’t really work. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy. It’s not deep enough to be a drama. It’s not coherent enough to be a message film. And it is not interesting enough to draw the audience that once flocked to Seinfeld’s sitcom. It is a cute film that has the appearance of being a Seinfeld joke about "a ‘B’ movie" with a full-length punch line that it really is about "bees." Directed by Steve Hickner  and Simon J. Smith, Bee Movie would probably get a grade of "C".

Using computer-generated technology that itself seems to be a little behind the industry’s advances in this field, we meet the central character on his graduation day. Having spent three days in high school, and now three days in college, Barry Benson (voice by Seinfeld) and his friend, Adam Flayman (Matthew Broderick), are ready to take their place within the hive. In an orderly and hardworking community, Barry is an individualist who struggles with just being another worker bee that must choose the one job he will have for the rest of his life.

But what is interesting about the film is that it does not really delve into Barry’s struggle. Using his circumstances more as a platform to look at other issues than as a problem with which we can all identify, the film has no coherent direction. It jumps on various topics from Barry’s coming-of-age, to Vanessa Bloom’s (Renée Zellweger) belief in the sacredness of all life, to the environmental arrogance of humans who "keep bees" to make honey, to the interconnectedness and unexpected consequences of our choices as seen when the bees no longer pollinate the flowers and fruits, to the insensitive mega-business corporations that care nothing for the little ones, to the fickle judicial system with its easily manipulated jury, to the power of community coming together to solve problems as seen in bees being able to carry the load of a jumbo jet and land it safely. But with this laundry list of topics the viewer’s heart is never fully engaged in any specific theme and even interest in the characters is limited.

When Barry decides to go outside the hive, he breaks the No. 1 rule for bees: never talk to a human. It happens when Vanessa chooses to save Barry’s life and he feels he must thank her. This event changes everything, not only in Barry and Vanessa’s lives, but also in the lives of all the bees and all the humans on the planet as we converse for the first time.

We won’t tell how that happens or reveal the visual gags and celebrity characters, except to mention one: Bee Larry King (voice by Larry King). The film’s best moments are when it parodies human life with humor and insight.

Perhaps the best explanation of this film would be to say that Bee Movie is like a Seinfeld stand-up comedy routine. It presents a variety of topics with melancholy humor and cynical insight told to a captive audience that is sitting in the dark.


1. Do you have any concern that humans are "stealing the honey" from bees? Why or why not?

2. The combining of amusement park rides within the daily life of the hive is explained as a way to keep from giving vacations to the worker bees. Do you identify anything similar to that in your life? Are we pacified by amusing experiences just to keep us working and consuming?

3. The unanticipated effect of the bees no longer pollinating the flowers, fruit trees and vegetables is devastating to the world and demonstrates the finely tuned system that makes our world both beautiful and inhabitable. What do you think is the most damaging thing humans are doing now that could be just as devastating?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church  on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit

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