Maya the Bee
dir Alexs Stadermann
scr Fin Edquist, Marcus Sauermann
prd Jim Ballantine, Patrick Elemendorff, Alexia Gates-Foale, Barbara Stephen, Thorsten Wegener
voices Coco Jack Gillies, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Roxburgh, Jacki Weaver, Noah Taylor, Miriam Margolyes, Joel Franco, Justine Clarke, David Collins, Shane Dundas, Andy McPhee, Cam Ralph
release Aus 1.Nov.14, US 8.Mar.15, UK 23.Oct.15
14/Australia 1h29
Maya the Bee
A bug's life: Maya

smit-mcphee roxburgh weaver
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Maya the Bee While it may overstate its "bee yourself" message, this enjoyable adventure makes up for its relatively simplistic animation with pure charm. Nothing about this film bears comparison with much more complex studio productions, but it has a kinetic sense of energy and colourful characters we can all root for.

When Maya (Gillies) is born, it's immediately clear that she isn't a normal bee. Refusing to be constrained by the rules of the hive, she is a threat to the strict royal advisor Buzzlina (Weaver), who is plotting to overthrow the open-minded Queen (Margolyes). Banished to certain death out in the meadow, Maya gets help from her bee-buddy Willy (Smit-McPhee) and singing grasshopper Flip (Roxburgh), as well as the young Sting (Franco), who proves that hornets aren't the feared enemy bees think they are. But Buzzlina is intent on stirring a war with the hornets.

The characters in this story are lively and funny, giving the movie an endearing, silly tone. Action sequences are rather chaotic, and there isn't much depth beneath the heavily slathered-on message, but Maya is such a mischievous, curious little bee that she can't help but inspire kids to venture out of their comfort zones. Kids might get lost in the rambling narrative, but they probably won't mind that the the imagery lacks the textured design work and creative invention of bigger animation houses.

And the voice work is certainly up to a high standard, with a skilled cast of Aussies (plus Brit Margolyes) who add plenty of personality to their characters. Design-wise, the critters are all rather plasticky, with oddly human features and very little attention to the insect world. But the meadow has some very nice elements to it, including a sea of vivid flowers and a population of all kinds of intriguing bugs (including a rather creepy moth and his brood).

The filmmakers shouldn't have bothered adding songs, as they are jarringly un-hummable. And the plot lacks any real tension since it's clear from the start that the meadow isn't nearly as dangerous as everyone keeps saying, and nothing truly bad is going to happen to anyone. Thankfully, there are a handful of smart gags for the grown-ups (more would have been welcome). But the real trick is that it's all so bright and cheerful that it would just be mean to complain too much.

cert u some themes 12.Jul.15

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