Bee Movie on Blu-ray Disc
From the co-creator and star of a TV show about nothing comes a CG movie about something.
Except we aren't really sure what.
Bee Movie means well, and it certainly generated its share of buzz, but it's really just a mishmash, a rehash of bits from such movies as Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Antz, A Bug's Life, and Monsters Inc.. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but one expects such homages, if they are homages and not just rip-offs, to be part of a whole that offers something new. Instead, we get derivative situations leavened with liberal dogma.
To be fair, we laughed a few times, and some of the hive civilization and the parallels between it and human civilization are cute, if not knee slappingly funny, but overall the movie really left us wanting, and we'd gone in wanting to like it.
Barry (Jerry Seinfeld) is, not surprisingly, a bee - a honeybee who at the movie's start is about to graduate from school with his best friend Adam (Matthew Broderick), which means it's time to choose a career. This is an important decision, because what the graduating bees choose as their jobs will be theirs for the rest of their lives. This causes Barry considerable angst because his natural choice would be something safe and boring, whereas he yearns for the type of excitement he envisions is available outside the hive, the kind of gig performed by the pollen jocks who flit from flower to flower gathering the raw materials from which the rest of the hive creates the honey that's the basis of its economy.
He finagles his way into a test flight with the pollen collectors but once outside the hive things go awry and he ends up bonding, against hive law, with a female human (Renee Zellweger). Then come delusions of grandeur as he discovers just how badly bees are being exploited by honey-loving humans (ignoring the free housing and security the exploited bees get) and decides to set things right by suing humanity for stealing bees' honey and - horror of horrors! - selling it for a profit.
And that's about where our suspension of disbelief ended.
We move then to a court room "drama" where humans and bees interact, the bees win their case and then both species are faced with a new reality in which the bees start living a life of leisure that causes untold harm to the earth's environment and threatens the existence of every living creature.
What? You mean it wasn't George W. Bush's fault?
It's a "be careful what you wish for" theme that, combined with another Bee Movie theme of taking pride in your work and doing even a repetitive, menial job well, sends a message that people should just shut up, put their dreams on hold, and not bother trying to excel or to better themselves.
Yeah, there's a positive message.
The Blu-ray is about as good as the movie. The 1080p picture is bright and sharp and colorful, but it lacks the "3D-like" depth of other Blu-rays, especially other CG films such as Disney/Pixar's Cars. It isn't a fatal flaw, but we were hoping for more.
Audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and its overall quality is very good, but the volume is a tad low: we had to crank our system a couple of notches to get the same levels as other discs give put out at our normal default setting.
That said, the sound stage and sound quality is very nice. Dialogue is easily discerned and all five point one channels get a reasonable workout once you've cranked things appropriately.
Extras abound, but for the most part they end up being as much fun as the movie.
This extends to the audio commentary that features Seinfeld with directors Steve Hickner and Simon Smith, producer Christina Steinberg, co-writer Barry Marder, and editor Nick Fletcher. It's mostly a group grope, as they all sit there watching the movie and making jokes about it.
Three deleted scenes and six different endings, with Seinfeld introductions, are basically unfinished storyboards and animatics that made us wonder what happened to the pursuit of excellence even in the smaller things of life the movie extols, since they couldn't even bother finishing them for the disc.
Better is "Inside the Hive: The Cast of Bee Movie" which gives us some real behind the scenes meat as the stars record their parts for the flick, improvising at times and generally having a swell time.
Also pretty good are the "TV Juniors," which consist of some 15 promotional shorts that offer more laughs than the movie itself. And "Tech of Bee Movie" is a pretty good luck at the animators, but it's too short.
There's more silly stuff, too, such as some live action "trailers" in which Seinfeld and others don their characters' costumes and, well, we aren't sure what they're doing other than promoting the film you've already bought or rented.
And then there's tripe such as "Meet Barry B. Benson," a silly question and answer thingy, a dumb parody music video take-off of "We Got the Beat".
"DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox" gives you some clips from some of the studio's other CG films. "DreamWorks Kids" has some kiddy activities including a bee trivia game and some info on real life bees, and you also get some (HD, fortunately) trailers for a few upcoming features.
The Blu-ray version of Bee Movie features some exclusive stuff, too, including a full-length, Picture-in-Picture storyboard track, some customizable character menus and a pop-up trivia track. It's nice to see some exclusive BD content to give an incentive to embrace this version (besides the superior picture and sound, of course) rather than the DVD, but this stuff doesn't really add a lot.
Bee Movie, from DreamWorks Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.