Bee Movie is a typical Dreamworks cartoon critter feature, combining a flimsy storyline with amiable one-liners and endless pop culture references. Starting in the same vein as Antz, the film follows the fortunes of Barry B Benson (Jerry Seinfeld), a worker bee who dreams of life beyond the regimented bureaucracy of the hive. An unscheduled flight around Manhattan lands him in the care of sweet-natured florist Vanessa (Renee Zellweger), whereupon he acquires a radical conscience and campaigns for bee's lib.
Fans of Jerry Seinfeld, who wrote the movie with his TV team, should brace themselves for a disappointment: Bee movie bumbles fruitlessly from coming-of-age tale to romance to courtroom drama like a wasp batting against a window. Like so many modern cartoons, it is caught in a no man's land between childish magic and adult sass. Life in the hive is presented, oddly, as a cross between corporate slavery and nostalgic Jewish cliché ("Is she beeish?", Barry's mum asks about his new girlfriend), and the film is so awash with knowing celebrity cameos and movie references that children are liable to be mystified.
What Bee Movie really lacks is a compelling hero. Seinfeld is essentially playing himself, so what we get is a stand-up comedian in a black and yellow sweater. This can be wearying, especially when the jokes are so lazy ("Bee yourself," "to bee or not to bee", that kind of thing). Renee Zellweger's voice adds some much-needed honey, but the best laughs come from Chris Rock as a manic mosquito.
Bee Movie is out in the UK on 14 December 2007.