widescreen – A-list celebrities sweeten Bee movie

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Forget terrorists. Forget global warming. Its bees who pose the real threat to our planet. Should the little buzzers ever decide to stop working pollinating flowers as they gather nectar to make honey the worlds ecosystem will collapse.

This rather sobering message is doled out with a lighthearted touch in Bee Movie, a computer-animated comedy from the mind and heart of Jerry Seinfeld. For those looking for a message with their entertainment, Bee Movie makes a strong case.

Seinfeld, who conceived, wrote and stars in the film, plays Barry B. Benson, a young, upwardly mobile hive-dweller about to embark on his career in the collective. Hes distraught, though, when he learns that whatever career he chooses gathering nectar, processing nectar, stirring honey will be his for the rest of his life.

Before settling down, Barry goes on a soaring adventure with the Pollen Jocks, an elite flying squadron who seeks out nectar and pollinates the worlds flowers. Once outside, his eyes are opened to the worlds wonders and he breaks the biggest bee law there is: speaking to a human.

This leads to an ingenious, unexpected narrative trajectory, finally resulting in the bee world suing the human species for stealing honey. Its an enjoyable ride, stockpiled with jokes that tap into todays pop culture (a segment with a Bee Larry King is priceless), all the while avoiding some of the more obvious bee puns. Well, almost.

At one point, Barry tells his friend Adam (Matthew Broderick) that he met someone. Is she Bee-ish? Adam asks. I just hope shes not a WASP. That wont go over with your parents.

What the gag lacks in originality, it makes up for in the facile delivery by the two stars. Seinfeld takes up the eco-gauntlet, but in a fun, frisky way, even referencing current cultural trends like the ban on smoking in urban environments.

The story is, at times, a little choppy. A few narrative chunks seem to have gone missing, presumably to help shorten the running time, but this doesnt detract from the movies overall entertainment value.

The color palette is bright with a nice hyper-real sheen, and the animation is fluid and convincing. The movie successfully treads the delicate balance between CGI-style and the hand-drawn classics. And while it contains the requisite high-octane action scenes, it finds originality in its depiction of things like the inner workings of the bee hive.

Seinfeld has assembled a tremendous vocal cast, including Renee Zellweger as Vanessa Bloome, a human florist with whom Barry becomes enamored; Patrick Warburton as her irritable boyfriend; Kathy Bates and Barry Levinson as Barrys parents; Oprah Winfrey as a patient, liberal-minded judge; John Goodman as a juicy Southern attorney; and, as themselves in two magnificently funny sequences, Ray Liotta and Sting.

One of the most inspired bits of casting is Chris Rock as a pesky mosquito named Mooseblood. He doesn’t  have much screen time, but he makes sure what little time he has is unforgettable.

Bee Movie fervently and competently entertains, but it doesnt quite achieve the joyous nirvana of animated predecessors like Shrek and Toy Story. Maybe thats due to our own increased apathy toward the CGI genre. Still, that should hardly be a buzzkill. Bee Movie does its job efficiently and creatively. Youll laugh till it stings.

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