Jerry Seinfeld is a hot comical commodity. The depth of his popularity is such that on the same-day tickets went on sale for his appearance in Gainesville on February 22, 2008 was a sell outt. Some of this is no doubt due to Bee Movie that was rolled out on November 2, 2008 in theaters around the nation. I saw it the week after it opened. Although in the first week, it lost ground to American Gangster, it returned to first place on week two and has shown remarkably good staying power with the public.
One won’t learn much about honey bees in Bee Movie. Biologically, it leaves a lot to be desired. For starters, the movie features male bees as workers, when in reality that niche is occupied in nature only by females. Male bees have nothing to do with pollination so it is problematic that they don back packs in the movie to fertilize flowers by spreading pollen around. They also have no role in honey production and thus, when a male bee takes the human race to court for stealing bee honey and exploiting bees, the males again inappropriately take center stage. Finally, the portrayal of a male bee in tennis shoes with only four (not six) legs falling in love with a human female really strains credulity.
Ultimately, of course the movie is more about human than honey bee or insect behavior. It engages in one of those activities we are best known for, giving everything in the natural world human qualities, known as anthropomorphism. From this perspective it becomes more a commentary on several human topics from worker exploitation to the absurdity of some court room shenanigans. Beyond falling in love with a human florist, and breaking the bee law of communicating with humans, the plot, however, does lead us to see how valuable honey bees are to nature. For when the class action suit brought by Barry B. Benson is successful and the honey bees then have nothing to do, we see impoverishment of the plant world through lack of pollinating activities. In the end, the bees are happy and productive again only when they voluntarily begin their duties in spite of the court decision awarding them a life of ease and comfort.
None of the problems with biology or credulity has stopped vested interests from latching onto Bee Movie for their own ends. Thus, we see the following published on the CNN web site: “Beginning October 26 at McDonald’s restaurants in North America and rolling out around the globe through the end of the year, McDonald’s ‘Bee Movie’ Happy Meal program features exclusive characters from DreamWorks’ upcoming ‘Bee Movie’ film from creator Jerry Seinfeld. McDonald’s continues the fun online to reinforce the movie’s environmental message with eco-friendly tips provided by its long-time partner, Conservation International. Kids around the world are being invited to take the ‘Bee Good to the Planet’ pledge at both happymeal.com and conservation.org and get active in protecting the environment. McDonald’s is making a difference in the field as well by directly supporting Conservation International projects in South Africa and Mexico that are working to protect important bee habitats.”
The honey industry also has seen this as a “teachable moment” for consumers. The National Honey Board has rolled out a number of promotions at honey.com, including grocery store promotions and scholastic educational kit, which will be used by teachers to “Get the buzz on honey bees,” targeted to age groups three-five. A new web site has also been created called “It’s Honey Time.” This features “real bee facts” and video of beekeepers manipulating beehives.
At least one large honey processor, Golden Heritage Foods LLC, packers of Busy Bee Honey, has a licensing agreement to make two-ounce bottles of honey in the shape and likeness of Barry B. Benson. “We were very attracted to the character to the cuteness of the container,” said Dwight Stoller, president and chief executive of Golden Heritage, a private firm with honey-packaging operations in Latty, Ohio, about 80 miles southwest of Toledo.
The movie does have many innovative computer manipulations. Perhaps some of the best footage is that of a swarm of animated bees joyously flying across the landscape. In addition, the tennis sequence where Barry B. Benson becomes stuck to a fuzzy ball during a volley between human players is dynamite.
With reference to the jokes, most reviewers think Bee Movie suffers when compared to Jerry Seinfeld vintage stuff seen on his human sit com that closed about nine years ago. Personally I agree with my partner who says the animated movie, Ratatouille, all about a rat who becomes a celebrated chef, is much more captivating.
The funniest moments according to one reviewer are a bit about women and toe rings (“It’s like putting a hat on your knee”), and a gag about TiVo (“You mean you can just freeze live TV? That’s insane”). “And then there’s Chris Rock as a mosquito. Rock has but two scenes in the film, but he needed a hundred more. Give the man his own movie, please, if only because it’d be far better than this one.” Perhaps, but for this entomologist Mr. Rock still portrays a male in a role that should be played by a female.
In the final analysis, I urge readers to go see Bee Movie and take the kids. You won’t have to worry about off color remarks and I daresay you won’t bee disappointed. Let me know if you are.