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Friday, November 2, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

A little bit of buzz for "Bee Movie"

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

"Bee Movie," with the voices of Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Patrick Warburton. Directed by Simon J. Smith

and Steve Hickner, from a screenplay by Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder and Andy Robin. 91 minutes. Rated PG for mild suggestive humor. Click for showtimes.

In the world of animated movies, there's Pixar (whose "Ratatouille" may well turn up on many 10-best lists this year), and then there's everyone else. And even when "everyone else" includes Jerry Seinfeld, it's still second best. "Bee Movie," produced and co-written by Seinfeld and featuring an all-star voice cast, has some funny one-liners and should be a pleasant enough diversion for the grade-school-age kids at which it's aimed. But that's all it is: pleasantly funny at best.

You walk away wondering what the Pixar gang might have made from this film's potentially terrific idea: A bee (Barry B. Benson, voiced by Seinfeld) discovers to his horror that humans are stealing the honey that bees labor to make, and raking in money from it. He mobilizes his hive for a lawsuit, with a courtroom showdown in which "bee culture" must defend itself against human usurpers.

Directors Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner, with a team of screenwriters (including two former "Seinfeld" writers), find some unexpected humor here. A cameo featuring Sting (yes, the real Sting, who's clearly a good sport) is almost worth the admission price, with the musician languidly fidgeting on the witness stand while Barry accuses him of appropriating bee culture for "a pranceabout stage name." Barry, who ventures out of the hive and makes friends with a florist (Renée Zellweger), becomes enamored with human food, munching crumbs with gusto. "That's not even what they eat! That's what falls off what they eat!" he enthusiastically tells a friend, waxing rhapsodic about the joys of Cinnabon.

And Chris Rock, voicing a seen-it-all mosquito named Mooseblood, briefly steals the movie. "Mosquito girls, they like to trade up," he says dolefully of his bad luck in mating. How does a bloodsucking dude compete against a moth, or a dragonfly?

While the funny lines keep "Bee Movie" flying, (and grown-ups may appreciate an out-of-nowhere little homage to the poolside scene in "The Graduate"), the movie as a whole feels a little flat. Perhaps the screenwriters, accustomed to the snappy rhythms of TV half-hours and stand-up comedy, were a little out of their element in structuring a feature-length film. Some of the plot developments feel nonsensical, and not in a good way; a late scene involving a plane flight seems like padding.

But the animation is detailed and often charming (note how every bee's yellow-and-black sweater has a different pattern), and Seinfeld's familiar edge-of-whining tones make for a good fit with the frustrated Barry, a bee aghast by the absurd details he observes outside of the hive. "They put it in lip balm for no reason whatsoever!" he yelps about the unfairness of humans' use of honey. "Bee Movie" doesn't touch the bar raised so high by Pixar, but it creates a little buzz of its own.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725

or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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