Bee Movie couldn't be coming out at a more appropriate time. Honeybees have been vanishing across the country at an alarming rate. It is being called a national tragedy, and experts are stymied over the loss. There is no scientific explanation for it. Little has been made about the condition in the press, but I got a chance to speak exclusively with Bee Movie co-director Simon J. Smith, who hopes that his film will elevate the importance of Bees in our society and shed some much needed light on this ecologically taxing problem.
"Albert Einstein said that, without bees, we'd only be able to live for four more years." Smith stated, "You'll see in the movie that we do a pretty good job of telling you how valuable bees are. It was really weird. While we were making this movie, this tragedy started happening. There was this weird irony with what was going on. The movie isn't exactly a commentary on the problem, but it does enough to promote the idea. Of how important bees are. You'll see when it comes out."
Indeed, the film does extrapolate on the significance of bees in our society. While visiting the DreamWorks Animation facility in Glendale, a group of journalists were treated to various scene selections from the upcoming film (which also stars Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock, and Seinfeld alum Patrick Warburton). The first excerpt being shown dealt with Jerry's character Barry B. Benson taking flight over Manhattan with the Pollen Jocks (bee soldiers dressed up like World War II bomber pilots). Their mission is to fly over Central park and pollinate the beautiful roses that reside there. While informative, the narrative was never preachy. It managed to give a tutorial on Bee pollination while being exciting, funny, and cleverly animated. The scenery in Bee Movie is breathtaking; the imagery is a little more colorful and poppy than some of the other CGI films as of late. It succeeds at looking like a cartoon, not some weird computer amalgamation of real life. Both the Bees and humans are artistic caricatures, not automaton facsimiles. Most importantly, the point is made and understood: Without bees, mankind would perish.
Weighty stuff for a kid's cartoon, sure. But it's handled in a very entertaining way. And It's Jerry Seinfeld. Remember his show and the "no hugs" policy? That same technique is utilized here. This ain't no Al Gore documentary on green gases. But it does wax on a subtle, important message. Hopefully, one that both children and adults will understand and enjoy.
We were also treated to a couple of other scenes from the film. The overall gist of the story was explained in a number of five-minute mini-movies shown in succession with the actual plotline. The main arc deals with Jerry's Barry B. Benson suing the human race over the sale and consumption of honey. To me, this struck a chord of familiarity. We see Benson preaching in front of a courtroom full of his peers and a number of humans. He extrapolates on the importance of honey to his small society of bees. How it supports their infrastructure of life. And when the human's steal the honey for their own profit, it drags their way of life down. It destroys their economy and puts families out of work. Watching this scene reminded me of the Piracy PSAs that have become so predominate in our theatergoing experience nowadays. You know the ones, where a grip will tell you how he can't afford to feed his children because of bootleggers stealing his "work".
I began to think that Bee Movie was a very cleverly crafted take on the Piracy issue, but when I brought this up to Smith in my short conversation with him, he denied that there were any metaphors, "No, this film is not an allegory for Piracy. No, not at all. That never crossed our minds while making the film. I don't really see any correlation with that."
I disagree. I see a huge correlation with it. Never the less, Smith then told me about the origins of the film, "Jerry was having dinner with Steven Spielberg in the Hamptons, as they often do. And it came up in conversation. Jerry said, "Wouldn't it be really funny to have a movie about Bees called Bee Movie?" Instead of answering him, Spielberg goes, "Hold on a second." He phones up Jeffery Katzenberg right there and says, "Jerry Seinfeld has a great idea for a movie." Jerry just kind of laughed, then went, "Uh, really?" The next thing he knows, he's doing a movie. He says, "All I had was the title. I wasn't even thinking about a movie." And that's how it all started."
The film looks fantastic, and if you are a fan of Jerry Seinfeld's brand of humor, you should get a real kick out of it. It's very "beeish". Bee Movie opens November 2nd, 2007.