Bee-ing And Nothingness

Bee Movie
Barry B. Benson (voiced by Jerry Seinfeld) in DreamWorks Pictures' Bee Movie - 2007
Dreamworks Pictures

Jerry Seinfeld was the toast of television in the years when his weekly sitcom ruled this medium. Now, he's trying to conquer the movie screen. Sunday Morning movie reviewer David Edelstein shares his take on "Bee Movie."

Jerry Seinfeld is back after a long hibernation with "Bee Movie"; I give it a B.

Ha-ha, that's a joke in the movie, which is full of "B" puns (although thankfully not "To Bee or Not to Bee").

It's going to be a huge hit and deservedly so. It's busy. It's kinetic. It's a treat for kids. But it's a little impersonal, like much of Seinfeld's work outside his TV show.

Seinfeld and his sitcom co-creator Larry David make me think of Paul McCartney and John Lennon: They made more interesting music together than apart. In the show, Seinfeld was the neurotic but basically still center. Balancing his weird passivity was Jason Alexander's George, David's alter-ego: Aggressively self-centered, socially inept.

On HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," David is brilliant, in small doses. Week after week, you wonder how many minor interactions he can screw up with his argumentativeness and prodigious lack of empathy. How much can we squirm before we start to chafe? We need Seinfeld to take the edge off. And he certainly could.

His solo act is remarkable for its edge-lessness. After a landmark sitcom, incredible riches, and marriage, his gripe-comedy seems even more irrelevant.

The hook of "Bee Movie" is that Seinfeld's character, Barry, doesn't want to be another factory drone. So he heads out into the world with the so-called pollen jocks. He gets knocked around on a tennis ball, a cause for fantastic, playful 3-D animation. He ends up falling for a Manhattan florist with the marvelous voice of Renee Zellweger.

But Seinfeld's reasons for making "Bee Movie" were not exactly earth-shaking.

"I had dinner with Steven Spielberg," he said, "and I was thinking about this idea and I said, 'What about a movie about bees called"'Bee Movie"?' And he got very excited and said, 'That's a great idea. I love the title.' And the next thing I knew, they had me doing it. But I didn't really have an idea for the movie. All I had was the title."

That's from the movie's promotion tape, and the blandness of his tone represents the film.

I'm not trying to be a killjoy. The movie is fun. But given the scale of the thing, I miss the fervor, the wondrous emotion, of "Ratatouille" and "Finding Nemo." And I miss Larry David's crankiness.

One more thing: In our own world, honeybees are dying in scary numbers, possibly from pesticides. So quite by accident, "Bee Movie" does have some urgency. Maybe seeing a human face - literally - on these miracle-workers of our ecosystem will motivate people, young and old, to Save the Bees.

Maybe "Bee Movie" does have a larger reason for bee-ing.