It would be wrong to suggest that "Bee Movie" is unpleasant to sit through. Adults and children could do worse than to enjoy moderate chortles during this computer-animated movie, which features the voice of Jerry Seinfeld as a wisecracking insect. But it would also be wrong to claim that the movie is abuzz with hilarity.
As the co-creator of TV's "Seinfeld" as well as its central character, Seinfeld could do no wrong. His shows were routinely funny and commented brilliantly on the zany minutiae of everyday life. But "Bee Movie," which he co-produced, co-wrote and stars in, never takes off. How could it, with such a bee-labored premise: that Barry (Seinfeld) becomes so outraged about food companies profiting from honey, he takes humanity to court? And when do we start laughing at a movie that expends so much energy creating tired plays or puns on the word "bee"? And is it funny that Sting (the Police singer) makes a voice cameo simply on the basis of his stage name?
Produced by Paramount's DreamWorks division, whose animated features -- witty satire for the grown-ups, slapstick for the kids -- are starting to become formulaic, "Bee Movie" feels phoned in on every level. The images, usually computer animation's biggest draw, are disappointingly average. And it's not satisfying to look at Barry's un-Jerry-like face, which resembles a spike-haired Donny Osmond.
The comedy, the element that most adults and all "Seinfeld" fans would look forward to, is equally flat. There are some funny moments when Seinfeld-as-bee-commentator makes characteristically pithy observations about winged life. But when the best material comes from Chris Rock as a funky mosquito who claims that his species is "trading up" to such species as moths and John Goodman as an over-the-top Southern lawyer, you know something ain't right. And the more the movie progresses, the more you realize how much Seinfeld's voice sounds like a droning bee -- the kind you want to swat away.
-- Desson Thomson (Nov. 2, 2007)
Contains mildly risque humor.