UltimateDisney.com | DVDizzy.com: New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Bee Movie: A Very Jerry 2-Disc Edition DVD Review

Bee Movie poster Bee Movie

Theatrical Release: November 2, 2007 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Simon J. Smith, Steve Hickner

Voice Cast: Jerry Seinfeld (Barry B. Benson), Renιe Zellweger (Vanessa Bloome), Matthew Broderick (Adam Flayman), Patrick Warburton (Ken), John Goodman (Layton T. Montgomery), Chris Rock (Mooseblood), Kathy Bates (Janet Benson), Barry Levinson (Martin Benson), Larry King (Bee Larry King), Ray Liotta (Ray Liotta), Sting (Sting), Oprah Winfrey (Judge Bumbleton), Larry Miller (Buzzwell), Megan Mullally (Trudy), Rip Torn (Lou Lo Duca), Michael Richards (Bud Ditchwater), Mario Joyner (Jackson), Jim Cummings (Title Narrator, Graduation Announcer), Tom Papa (Klauss Vanderhayden)

Buy Bee Movie from Amazon.com: A Very Jerry 2-Disc Edition DVD • Widescreen 1-Disc DVD • Fullscreen 1-Disc DVD • Blu-ray


For four seasons in the mid-1990s, the hit sitcom "Seinfeld" ranked either first or second in viewership among all television programs. For Jerry Seinfeld, playing a character modeled after himself on this namesake show he co-created surely translated to plenty of money, power, and job offers. Like his fellow stand-up comedians-turned-'90s TV stars Tim Allen and Paul Reiser, Seinfeld got a swell salary, a producer's credit, and a chance to pen a bestselling nonfiction book. Unlike those two, though, Seinfeld never pursued a movie career.

That's putting it lightly. Jerry's three leading "Seinfeld" co-stars got some notable roles here and there, mostly in forgettable comic fare. But the eponymous middle-aged everyman did nothing for film or television where he wasn't playing himself.
That changed last year, when finally the "Actor" section of the 53-year-old Seinfeld's IMDb profile gained a finished project. His post-"Seinfeld" items include his important role as "Prison Man #2" in a direct-to-video Larry Miller movie and guest voice-over in a 2000 "Dilbert" episode. But, for all intents and purposes, Bee Movie marks Jerry Seinfeld's long-overdue return to the industry that made him a household name.

Arriving at a time when "Seinfeld" is still rampantly syndicated, Bee Movie is the ninth computer-animated comedy released by DreamWorks. Star voice talent is nothing new for the studio, but Seinfeld's participation on Bee Movie is unique; he is the top-billed writer and producer as well. That may be lost on the average credit-ignoring viewer. But even members of that class who somehow missed one of the most extensive advertising campaigns of all-time (certainly the most celebrity-oriented for an animated film) would be sure to recognize the voice and stylings behind the film's lead character; Barry B. Benson is essentially Jerry Seinfeld, if Seinfeld were a talking honey bee.

Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld) and his friend Adam Flayman (Matthew Broderick) get a sweet taste of some pollen in "Bee Movie." Barry takes to the skies with Pollen Jocks, his wide eyes reflecting the impressive New York City visuals.

Bee Movie feels like it could so easily be a 4-episode television series. That is not because of low production values or inferior quality, but because structurally it is comprised of four distinct parts, roughly 20 minutes each, which take the film in different directions. The pieces fit together well enough for a cohesive single narrative, but the odd shifts of interest lead one to imagine that DreamWorks split their resources into four groups and each were responsible for making an entertaining quarter-film. There's no basis whatsoever to suggest that's how Bee Movie was made, but most viewers are likely to detect the fragmented manner of storytelling.

The film's opening introduces us to Barry, on what is college graduation day for him and his friend/cousin Adam Flayman (Matthew Broderick). These early sequences suggest that we're going to see a lot of bee equivalents of human phenomena, much like Shark Tale did for underwater creatures,
Pixar's A Bug's Life did for insects, and Blue Sky's Robots did for mechanical beings. Fresh out of school, Barry, Adam, and their fellow graduates seem able to choose from many paths, all of them at honey manufacturing corporation Honex, whose orientation looks and sounds a lot like a theme park ride. Pressured with having to choose a single job that he'll have to do every day for the rest of his life, Barry decides to wander off and join the "Pollen Jocks" on one of their exciting runs outside the hive.

Their routine adventure takes Barry to New York City, where an errant tennis ball and some sudden chaos lead him inside an apartment. There, after the human resident Vanessa (Renιe Zellweger) spares his life, Barry feels indebted to thank her. He breaks a cardinal rule for his kind by talking to a human, but soon Vanessa and he are bonding. Cleverly recalling The Graduate, the movie watches Barry revel in this new relationship as the worries of uncertainty fade away.

From her surprised look, it seems as though florist Vanessa Bloome (Renee Zellweger) wasn't expecting to get a verbal thank-you from the honey bee whose life she saved. At its center is a bee vs. humans lawsuit over honey with a large defense attorney (John Goodman) who sounds like Colonel Sanders... you're not likely to confuse "Bee Movie" with another CG-animated cartoon.

A visit to the grocery store moves the film to change gears again. Upon learning that humans consume honey, Barry is determined to put a stop to a practice he finds reprehensible. He decides to do a modern thing: sue. The third act becomes a courtroom drama (in the loosest sense), as Barry, Adam, and Vanessa team up against a bombastic Southern lawyer (John Goodman). Tactical questioning, celebrity witnesses, and media attention add up to closely-watched trial with big consequences.

Once the decision is reached, we enter the fourth and final stage. Here, the film becomes rather educational as it questions the very nature of bees and their function on Earth. Though excitement inevitably arises, Bee Movie doesn't force an obligatory action climax upon us, instead maintaining the light and pleasant tone held throughout regardless of its varying focus.

Most critics weren't too crazy about Bee Movie, but I'd be lying if I joined them and claimed I didn't like it. Through every one of its phases, the film is diverting and witty. Like many a DreamWorks cartoon, the humor often has adults in mind, but there isn't an uneasy divide among target audience. While most kids won't understand the animated appearances of Ray Liotta, Sting, and "Bee" Larry King, adults will and they're mined for bigger laughs than, say, the innuendo in Shrek films. The comedy has some of Jerry Seinfeld's imprint on it, but not to excess; fans will notice his mark (and might even see Elaine, George, and Newman in some of the parts), while those who aren't won't be shut out. In short, the film is funny without consciously trying to be safe for children and edgy for grownups.

There's none of that uncomfortable hostility between the animated bee versions of Larry King and Jerry Seinfeld, just a humorous send-up. Like most Patrick Warburton work, his character is one of the best things about "Bee Movie." Here, the Puddy-esque boyfriend Ken tries to eliminate Barry with flowery fragrance spray.

In addition, the movie is appealing visually. There's warmth to the bright, cartoony designs, the various environments are impressively realized, and one finds a number of inspired framing choices. I also feel that the movie does an impressive job of incorporating real aspects of bee life into the plot in a way that disperses scientific knowledge without feeling anything like a lesson.
Give the gift of DreamWorks Animation stock
My post-viewing research discovered that certain experts (most notably, a Pulitzer Prize-winning entomologist) took issue with the liberties taken. That doesn't really change my view on the film's value in this regard.

Despite the colossal marketing budget, Bee Movie added to the downward slide in attendance that CG-animated films have been experiencing over the past three years. Its $126 million domestic gross placed it 21st among all 2007 releases and the earnings more than doubled when foreign markets are counted. Consider the $150 million production costs and the fact that Bee's intake pales to comparable DreamWorks hits like Over the Hedge and Shark Tale and you'll see the movie wasn't quite the popular success it hoped to be.

After four months in theaters, Bee Movie came to DVD this week in three separate flavors. (A fourth release was cancelled just a few weeks ago when it became clear that DreamWorks/Paramount's preferred next-generation format HD DVD had no future.) Most readily found is a single-disc version released in Full Screen and Widescreen formats. Then, there is A Very Jerry 2-Disc Edition, the subject of this review which carries a list price $7 higher. Read on to find out what's gained and retained in this double-disc set.

Buy Bee Movie: A Very Jerry 2-Disc Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French),
Dolby Digital Surround (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 11, 2008
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 & DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $36.98
Black Keepcase
Also available in 1-Disc Widescreen Edition and Fullscreen Edition DVDs and on Blu-ray

VIDEO and AUDIO

Like your typical 21st century animated feature, Bee Movie comes to DVD directly from computers. The digital transfer is, by definition, flawless. The 1.78:1 16x9-enhanced widescreen transfer indeed dazzles and while the film's visuals aren't as stunning as some other CGI cartoons, they're easy on the eyes and filled with vivid, pleasing colors.

A quartet of audio options is provided (see the table above). The default and most important one is a Dolby Digital 5.1 English track which definitely meets one's expectations with crisp sounds and an appropriately engulfing design. A DTS track might have been a nice addition, but it's not overly missed as the film's mix isn't the most aggressive or demanding.

The Queen Bee listens to Barry's ideas then considers her own in this deleted scene. Though this character was deleted from the film, her performer Megan Mullally went on to voice another bee. Barry ventures into outer space in what's probably the most memorable of six Alternate Endings. Brad Garrett (who has nothing to do with "Bee Movie") shares a bit of his ideas for a Brad/Bread Movie with Jerry Seinfeld in one of the funnier "TV Juniors" pieces.

BONUS FEATURES

Nowadays, when a movie debuts simultaneously in 1-disc and 2-disc versions, the 2-disc often merely tacks on a bonus disc.
That is not the case for Bee Movie, which puts its exclusive supplements on Disc 1. Aside from the "Inside the Hive" voice cast featurette and the "Previews" section, everything on Disc 1 is only available on this 2-Disc DVD.

Disc 1's extras begin with a feature audio commentary by Jerry Seinfeld, co-writer Barry Marder, co-producer Christina Steinberg, directors Simon J. Smith & Steven Hickner, and editor Nick Fletcher. Like most big group commentaries, this one is active and jovial. There's a lot of information given about the movie's creation and development (many abandoned concepts are discussed), though there are a number of interesting detours too (on subjects like autobiography titles and great food combinations). In all, it's a pretty fun listen, though one which stops abruptly before the 8-minute end credits scroll.

Three "Lost Scenes" (5:00) are edited together from enough storyboards to feel animated. An alternate opening finds Barry given an interview and tour at Honex. In the second deletion, Barry meets with the Queen Bee (voiced by Megan Mullally), who has plans for him. The third cut brings back Ray Liotta, thinly disguised as a stewardess, to serve as another in-flight obstacle. The scenes are preceded by audio introductions from Seinfeld.

A whopping six Alternate Endings (14:35) follow. These are presented in the same live storyboard format with Seinfeld intros. All six consider the leads' romantic futures, with variations on the final destination. In assessing the "love triangle" of Barry, Vanessa, and Ken, one sends Barry into outer space, two set up a wedding, and most agree that Barry and Vanessa are right for each other in some way.

Next come 16 "TV Juniors" (23:20), Seinfeld-hosted interstitials that are a lot more enjoyable when they're not turning up every commercial break on NBC. Each spot runs about 90 seconds and takes a soft sell approach. Among the more inspired random topics: Jerry's first meeting at DreamWorks, Brad Garrett discussing his pitch for a bread movie, cracking down on bootlegs, making voice acting easy for Patrick Warburton and Ray Liotta, and discussing similar projects at competing studios. Clearly intended for adult viewers, these promos contain good-natured ribs at the expense of DreamWorks, animation clichιs, and the movie industry.

In this second of two amusing live-action trailers, DreamWorks CEO Steven Spielberg suggests a new medium for Jerry Seinfeld's bee movie. We see the lengths to which an actor will go to promote a personal project in Jerry Seinfeld's costumed flight over the Cannes Film Festival. Whether they're really recording lines together or just playing for the camera, Renee Zellweger and Jerry Seinfeld appear together in "Inside the Hive: The Cast of 'Bee Movie'."

Under "Live-Action Trailers", we get two amusing Bee Movie previews with Jerry Seinfeld costumed as a bee. In "Windshield" (1:50), he is joined by Chris Rock and other actors in taking direction from Eddie Izzard. In "Steven" (2:15), Jerry pleads with producer Steven Spielberg for help after struggling on a solo scene.

"Jerry's Flight Over Cannes" (3:00) documents the publicity stunt Seinfeld made at the French film festival last May, with a pulley system, giant bee costume, and some help from Chris Rock.

The title "Inside the Hive: The Cast of Bee Movie" (14:40) suggests a name-dropping compilation of the celebrity voice actors. The featurette is that (overemphasizing some minor contributions), but there are also some interesting grander observations made about the film.

Closing the first disc, "Previews" gives us a trailer for Kung Fu Panda, a short Ben Stiller-hosted look at sequel Madagascar: The Crate Escape, and promos for The Spiderwick Chronicles and Activision's Kung Fu Panda video game. The first three play automatically when the disc is loaded.

In "Tech of 'Bee Movie'", we're shown how Jerry Seinfeld was able to collaborate on and see the film in development from across the country. Featuring hordes of excited youths decked in black and yellow, the "We Got the Bee" music video adds to the trend of kid-friendly covers of early '80s pop tunes. In between three Shrek movies and three all-DreamWorks vertebrate comedies, Aardman's "Dancing with Myself" opening from "Flushed Away" is one of 7 musical excerpts to choose from in the DreamWorks Animation Jukebox.

Disc 2's bonuses, all of which are found on the single-disc versions, are divided into two areas. Plain ole' Special Features gives us four items.

"Tech of Bee Movie" (7:30) lives up to its name with a brisk look at the technique and technology behind the film. Attention is given to certain production achievements (like Jerry Seinfeld being able to participate from New York via the magic of complex video conferencing) and animation challenges (depicting honey, rendering "bum fur") experienced on the film, though the citations of corporate partners feels forced.

"Meet Barry B. Benson" is an interactive feature in which you can choose from eleven questions to ask the film's protagonist, which he answers in 15-30 seconds mixing unique interview animation with movie clips.

The "We Got the Bee" (2:10) music video is a fairly odd thing. It features dozens of young bee enthusiasts painting Manhattan yellow & back, spreading the word, and briefly joining Jerry Seinfeld at Shea Stadium. Though the song, a cover of the early-'80s Go-Go's hit "We Got the Beat", is unattributed, a Google search revealed it's performed by Alice Cohen with Hudson Soundlab NYC.

The DreamWorks Animation Jukebox is nearly identical to its appearance on Shrek the Third's DVD, only adding a song from that movie. Those who don't own that disc and the other sampled films may be pleased to get 1-2-minute musical numbers from all three Shrek films, Flushed Away, Over the Hedge, Madagascar, and Shark Tale. I'm sure the studio hopes this encourages rentals and purchases of the featured films.

Bumblebees are one of 5 types of bees whose stings are analyzed in The OW! Meter. So, you think you know bees? Test your wisdom with the That's Un-Bee-lievable trivia quiz. Locate flower, select elevation, select power, and fire away in the Pollination Practice set-top activity.

DreamWorks Kids holds the remaining extras, which as you'd guess, are aimed primarily at the young'uns.

The 7-minute featurette "The Buzz About Bees" dispatches facts and figures about honey bees, including tips and a project to make life better for them.

The Ow! Meter discusses 5 types of bees and rates the pain humans feel getting stung by each. It also discusses and rates the pain bees feel from human devices like boots and magazines. The section wraps with a trio of tips to avoid a stinging incident.

"That's Un-Bee-lievable!" is a lengthy game of bee trivia which is sure to teach you a few things, no matter how old you are.

The tedious quiz "Be a Bee" asks about a dozen multiple choice questions on your hobbies and interests. It uses your answers to tell you your perfect match of a job at Honex, without much evident logic.

The challenging "Pollination Practice" game lets you specify the aim and power of your weapon as you try to hit flowers with pollen. It requires patience and guesswork.

Got crayons? The Pollen Jocks claim one of the six printable coloring pages. Those with a DVD-ROM-equipped PC can install the Bee Movie Activision Game Demo, for about 15 minutes of solid gaming fun. Here, Barry navigates through a busy New York City street with help from you and your keyboard. Busy bees and hexagonal honeycomb cells... good times on the Bee Movie Disc 1 main menu.

Lastly, there is a fair amount of DVD-ROM content, which gladly doesn't require one to fuss with Interactual Player. Instead, upon inserting the disc into an able computer, a webpage loads letting you choose from four options. As far as printable PDF files, there are six bee character Coloring Pages, five Honey Recipes (for sweet snacks like ice pops, smoothies, and dips), and three colorful Sudoku Game grids. PC users can also enjoy a Bee Movie Activision game demo, which treats you to a fun, exciting level guiding Barry through close calls with city street and sidewalk traffic.

MENUS and PACKAGING

The animated menus feature nice stylized 2-D imagery of busy bees inspired by the zigzagging end credits. Spinning honeycomb cells move, while bees float here and there. Aside from the listings offered, the two discs' menus are identical.

With a disc claiming each side of the inner keepcase, there's not any good place for an insert, but the only thing found is a couple of coupons for token/food deals at Chuck E. Cheese's.

Woman and bee enjoy a nice walk and some witty banter. It's hard out there for a bug. Barry finds himself among a variety of insects affixed to a car windshield in this impressively-rendered shot.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Bee Movie doesn't depart from too many DreamWorks conventions; there are jokes aimed at adults, pop culture references, and star voice casting where it's not needed. Nevertheless, it's a fun, funny, and pleasant movie which stands strongly enough to distinguish itself from lesser CG-animated comedies. I'd rank this in the mid-to-high range of the studio's canon. It's no classic and would have seemed more remarkable before CGI comedies were everywhere, but it's definitely still entertaining enough to check out.

Despite the silly moniker, DreamWorks has put together a pretty nice 2-disc DVD for Bee Movie. Unfortunately, you'll either have to pay about $10 (post-price cut, $20) more than you should
or settle for the single-disc version that drops nearly all the best bonus features. For anyone old enough to read this review, the "TV Juniors" shorts, audio commentary, deleted scenes, and alternate endings all certainly hold more value than the single-disc's slate of predominantly kid-friendly games and activities.

It's tough to recommend the 2-disc edition in light of the considerable price difference. Those who must have it all will go this way, whereas those less enamored with bonus features might be fine to buy the standard DVD and rent the 2-disc. It's nice of the studio to give the customer a choice for a better DVD (something Disney and Fox didn't do for Ratatouille and The Simpsons Movie, respectively), but the days when two-disc sets didn't fetch premium prices are certainly missed. No matter what way you go, Bee Movie deserves to be seen and, perhaps, purchased.

Buy Bee Movie on DVD from Amazon.com:
A Very Jerry 2-Disc Edition / 1-Disc Widescreen Edition / 1-Disc Fullscreen Edition / Blu-ray

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to DVD: Enchanted • 101 Dalmatians: Platinum Edition • Dan in Real Life • No Country for Old Men
2007 Animated Films: Shrek the Third • Surf's Up • Ratatouille • TMNT • Meet the Robinsons • Beowulf
DreamWorks Animation: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa • Kung Fu Panda (with Secrets of the Furious Five) • Shrek the Halls
A Bug's Life • Night at the Museum • Cars • Valiant • Benson: The Complete First Season

The Voice Cast of Bee Movie:
Matthew Broderick: The Lion King • Deck the Halls • Inspector Gadget | Patrick Warburton: Underdog • Kronk's New Groove
John Goodman: Monsters, Inc. • The Emperor's New Groove | Renee Zellweger: Chicago | Kathy Bates: Misery: Collector's Edition

UltimateDisney.com | DVDizzy.com: New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Search This Site:

UltimateDisney.com/DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed March 12, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007-08 DreamWorks Animation SKG. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.