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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Steve Hickner, Simon J Smith
scr Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, Andy Robin
voices Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Chris Rock, John Goodman, Kathy Bates, Barry Levinson, Patrick Warburton, Megan Mullally, Rip Torn, Michael Richards, Oprah Winfrey
release US 2.Nov.07, UK 14.Dec.07
07/US DreamWorks 1h30
Flower power: Barry and Vanessa
With colourfully wacky animation for the kids and a fair stream of witty one-liners for the grown-ups, this comical romp is enjoyable fun even if it's not particularly original.
Barry (Seinfeld) is a young bee who isn't content to follow the rules of the hive like his best pal Adam (Broderick). He wants to get out and see the world, and on his first adventure he breaks the primary rule of bee life: he speaks to a human, the florist Vanessa (Zellweger). Soon he discovers that humans are hoarding shocking amounts of honey, and with Vanessa's help he sues for control of the bees' product and freedom for bees enslaved by keepers.
There's plenty to enjoy in this film, even if it's not quite funny or sophisticated enough to be a true classic. Seinfeld adds a sassy punch of topical humour, with hilarious asides and sharp observations. And Zellweger's character is nicely kooky, with an unpredictable mix of smarts and spaciness that's eerily reminiscent of Rachel from Friends. The other standout is Rock's mosquito Mooseblood, who gets the best lines but isn't around nearly as much as we'd like (at least he shows up again at the end).
There are also hilariously silly as-themselves turns from Larry King, Ray Liotta and Sting. And the hive is inventively structured around worker drones stuck in the same job for life (do any humans live like that anymore?), plus the impossibly cool "pollen jocks" who venture outside. The characters are enjoyably energetic, so it's disappointing when the corny plot takes over, dragging us through the cheesy courtroom drama and then a contrived climactic adventure.
DreamWorks never aspires to terribly well-rounded story or characters, aiming instead for witty spoofs, pop culture references and goofy pastiche. Detailed animation doesn't seem to be a priority either, as the design is a bit simplistic and plastic-smooth, centring instead on bright colours and strangely human faces glued onto the animal bodies. No, the goal is pure escapism--keeping us giggling through to another trite "be yourself and look after the planet" moral message. Although it's pretty good fun getting there.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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