Genre: Computer-animated Jerry Seinfeld vehicle
The pitch: After discovering life outside the hive and meeting Vanessa, (Renee Zellweger), a human florist, young bee Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) sues the human race for the honey industry's exploitation of bee labor.
Honey, I mean, money shots: The candy-colored hive proves to be the most charming, visually splendid oppressive society imaginable. Barry enjoys delightful flights over parks outside the hive, as well as a scary one through a car engine. When Barry and Vanessa chat during casual dates that ignore their differences in scale and species, the film feels amusingly like "Seinfeld."
Best line: "What about Bee Columbus, Bee Gandhi, Bee Jesus?" says Barry, pointing to the great figures from bee history.
Worst line: "It's organic!" "It's ourganic!" Barry exclaims, objecting to humanity's "theft" of honey.
Fashion statements: Picking out his sweater in the morning, Barry considers yellow and black, but opts for black and yellow instead. I was wondering why the female bees looked so similar, and then it hit me: They all have beehive hairdos. Barry's pal Adam (Matthew Broderick) loses his stinger and replaces it with a cocktail sword.
Voice cameos: "Seinfeld" fixtures Patrick "Puddy" Warburton and the disgraced Michael "Kramer" Richards have minor voice roles. In two knowing self-parodies, Sting turns up as an example of human appropriation of "bee culture," while Ray Liotta reveals that he markets a signature line of gourmet honey. Larry King voices "Bee Larry King," and although Barry points out the striking similarity to the real celebrity, the gag only confirms that Hollywood should ban Larry King cameos from all movies.
Pop references: Jobless and smitten with Vanessa, Barry mopes around his parents' swimming pool in a hilarious but subtle spoof of The Graduate. Vincent the bear from Over the Hedge makes a surprise courtroom appearance. The "Turn your key, sir!" line from War Games appears for no good reason. Out of nowhere, the film's big, bizarre finale emulates the Airport movies.
Product placement: Barry lingers in front of a can of Bumblebee Tuna. Adam gorges himself on Cinnabon. (As Seinfeld has proved in his Bee Movie promotional blitz, he can shill like nobody's business.)
Political subtext: With Jewish jokes about bees being "bee-ish" (as opposed to WASPs), corporate beehives described as "work camps" and gaseous smoke used to immobilize the bees, could there be a Holocaust metaphor going on here?
The bottom line: A cartoon character makes a great mouthpiece for Seinfeld's familiar comedic voice, and the closer Bee Movie hews to his observational humor, the bigger laughs it gets. But Seinfeld's "show about nothing" didn't always value traditional plotting, and Bee Movie's story flits in so many directions (some painfully unfunny) that you risk getting your antennae in a twist.