Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie is a gentle children's movie about a young Bee named Barry, who graduates from college, but wants to explore the outside world before he choses the job that he will have in the hive for the rest of his life.
Barry B. Benson is a likable animated bee, voiced by Jerry Seinfeld himself. Matthew Broderick voices his buddy Adam, and Renee Zellweger plays Vanessa Bloom, the human florist who Barry befriends while he is having his adventures in New York City. The movie's advertising tagline, is "Honey just got Funny" and in fact it is a very cute and funny movie, with plenty of low key jokes to keep both kids and parents entertained. It also has great pacing, some really cool animated action scenes that my kids just love, and snappy dialog that keeps the story moving along.
But what I find so interesting about this movie (having watching it three times so far on DVD as it is my 3 and 4 years olds current new favorite movie to play over and over) is the way Seinfeld gently leads the viewer through some quite sophisticated themes, ranging from the capitalist exploitation of the proletariat bees labor, to concepts of the value of work and leisure. The viewer also shares Barry B's youthful angst as he tries to find his own niche in the world, while still trying not to disappoint his parents. Some of the other social topics the film flits over are dating outside of your social group, and through the Mosquito character Mooseblood, voiced by Chris Rock, we have a glimpse of what its like to suffer the prejudice of being a member of a not-so-popular insect group.
Unlike the animated classic "Animal Farm" you don't feel like these socio-political themes are being pushed down your throat. In my opinion, it's this light touch that makes the movie such a success. Like all great children's films, you can chose what level you want to view it on. To my 4 year old it is a film about the importance of Bees, and how they pollinate all the flowers. When the Bees sue the humans and stop working, the flowers don't get pollinated and everything goes wrong all around the world. Its a great environmental message.
But when I watch Bee Movie, I am thinking about what it really means to work for a living: the value that is paid to the worker, and the working conditions of all workers globally. I ask, am I a honey stirrer in a good hive while others are working in a exploitative honey farm getting "smoked" by the bee keepers?
I am thinking about what would happen if all workers were paid a fair wage for the work and fair trade price for the products they produce. I am thinking about what would happen if no-one worked and we stopped helping each other make the world a better place. Ultimately I think Jerry Seinfeld's message is about that fine balance we call work/life.
Pardon me, I have to go back to stirring the honey; it's important, you know.