Bee Movie turns 15 this year. What can I say that the masses of online jokes haven’t? Well, let’s see. Is it the best Dreamworks movie, no. Is it even a strong animation, no. The question is then, what does Bee Movie do right? Let’s take a dive into the hive and find out.
The first thing that we can give Bee Movie is that it tries. Although it doesn’t necessarily capture all of the charm of a big budget Hollywood animated film, it still has heart. The story of Barry B. Benson, is one that looks at workers’ rights as well as individualism, something that on paper seems like an excellent topic for a film.
The issue here, though, is that the story, whilst trying its best to tackle these elements, gets bogged down and stung to death by a subpar plot that feels so bloated and uninteresting. All of the humour and talent that the voice cast feed into it isn’t nearly enough to save this film from disaster. It isn’t a problem of characters though: Antz and A Bug’s Life have similarly focused on insects as a topic of characterisation. Something just feels flat here. Jerry Seinfeld and Renee Zellweger do their best with what they have but it still isn’t enough to make us feel for these bees in this weirdly out-there plot.
The film, however, isn’t all bad. The comedy does land and is genuinely funny in places. The jokes are thoughtful and there is a real cleverness behind them. The chemistry between the characters is strong and ultimately the films driving force. The clearly clumsy plot devices throughout are where Bee Movie struggles. It just lacks coherence. From the strange romantic elements to the sudden switch from adventure to courtroom drama, the pacing feels off: in fact, it feels too strange for a Dreamworks movie, and I’m aware that this is the same company that created talking donkeys and animals escaping from a zoo.
The issue is, it seems, that in those films, the story and the world it inhabits feels three dimensional. They capture essence of believability despite the strangeness. Bee Movie doesn’t, and in this weirdness, it trundles along, waiting to end, with a conclusion that comes off as emotionally weightless. What a shame.
The designs of Barry and his friends are strong, and there is no denying the sense of appeal in their visuals. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered and the animation is for the most part (humans aside) fluid and believable, and the musical score is something that adds a fun, lightheartedness to the plot. This is all to be commended. The plot, however, is something that screams “doesn’t know what it wants to be movie” and in many ways, due to the story progression, almost paints the bees in a bad light for wanting to have better rights for the hive. It’s just a mess.
I know I’m ranting at this stage, but I remember eagerly anticipating this movie upon release and, whenever I think back to the possibilities that Bee Movie could have had, what it could have been, I feel sad. Almost nostalgic for a parallel world where Bee Movie was an A movie.
In conclusion, should you revisit this film to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary? Probably not. Should you watch it as a means of escapism if you have never seen it before? Why not? It isn’t a bad movie, it’s just not a very good one.