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Ghost Canyon

'Bee Movie (Jerry's Two-Disc Special Edition)'
(Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, et al / 2-Disc DVD / PG / (2007) 2008 / Disney)

Overview: Barry B. Benson (voice of Jerry Seinfeld) is your average honeybee. Despite having recently received his diploma from bee college and being virtually guaranteed a bright future in honey, Barry feels he has the skills to pursue a number of different career paths and resents the fact that his employment opportunities are strictly limited to producing the sweet nectar. Upon breaking away from the hive and developing a friendship with an insect-loving New York florist (voice of Renée Zellweger), Barry makes the shocking discovery that human beings eat honey in mass quantities.

DVD Verdict: Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld), a bee who graduated from college, isn't enjoying his new adult life. He's forced to make honey for the rest of his life, and his parents (Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson) and friend Adam (Matthew Broderick) aren't giving him much encouragement. Disillusioned, he joins a pollen jock bees, and in the middle of a roundabout, he gets lost from the rest of the gang. It turns out to be good, however, as he makes friends with kind-hearted florist Vanessa Blume (Renee Zellweggar). However, this also presents Barry with a scary truth: humans are stealing honey from the bees and selling it for their own profit. Now, along with Vanessa, Barry hopes to fight a menacing D.A. (John Goodman) and reclaim the bees' source of life.

I sort of agree with a small number of critics that "Bee Movie" may not be a grandstanding breakthrough of an animated comedy. It's taking the "Shrek" formula by mixing in un-PC humor (with jokes that I'm surprised even got past the censors), a gorgeous 3D environment, a huge star wattage (with Larry King, Ray Liotta, and Sting making cameos), and a score from frequent Dreamworks composer Rupert-Gregson Williams, but not doing too much. This is a very good movie, but with Jerry Seinfeld (who also produces) a solid comedian who usually comes in balls out, willing to hit the jugular, "Bee Movie" sort of has him on a leash.

Still, it's hard to deny a film that isn't overstuffed with family-friendly moralizing to please the simple-minded. Even though you'll have to sit through the first quarters of the film hearing agonizing, half-baked bee puns, "Bee Movie" has plenty of good gags here and there. Whether it's Barry imagining a date with Vanessa, riding a bouncing tennis ball, or going against the court and talking to various celebrities mentioned above, the stuff is safe, but deserves credit for its creative originality. Think of it as an Amanda Bynes film if it was animated, and it had Seinfeld.

Speaking of the comedian, Seinfeld does a really good job in his first leading role. The material isn't meaty, but Seinfeld has plenty of energy and determination in his attempts to make lemons out of lemonade. And he recieves good company in the form of Renee Zellweggar, whose reliable sweetness and charisma counteracts any formulaic story devices. Both of these talents always brighten up the atmosphere in case it reaches for bottom-of-the-barrel animated comedy cliches.

I did wish the side cast was given meatier material, however. There's some solid work from Matthew Broderick, Chris Rock, and Patrick Warburton. But it seems like the creators feel like letting audiences play "spot-the-celebrity", with limited appearances from Kathy Bates, John Goodman, David Herman, Barry Levinson (following Martin Scorcese's foots from "Shark Tale" as another director looking to broaden his plate) Megan Mullaly, Michael Richards, Oprah Winfrey, and many more. I was surprised they didn't squeeze Uma Thurman in there (actually, she was going to appear in the movie, along with "Saturday Night Live" funnyman Colin Quinn).

"Bee Movie" is competent entertainment, and I could pass the shortcomings. Seinfeld, while not impressive, manages to make a competent enough debut in his leading man role. And it's not crappy. It's just a shame that, after being wowed by solid films like "Surf's Up" and "The Simpsons Movie", it's a shame this film didn't have more bite. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Alternate Endings
"We Got the Bee" Music Video
"Inside the Hive: The Cast of the Bee Movie"
Live Action Trailers
DVD-Rom Extras - Featuring Game Demos and much more.