Many years ago, I saw Bee Movie. I was younger then, and film was a small enough part of my life that I was able to brush it off. It wasn’t until many years later that the name resurfaced: Bee Movie. I’d seen that, right? I struggled to come to terms with the fact that this film ― which had receded to the back of memory like a dream ― was actually real.
Jerry Seinfeld plays Barry B. Benson, a bee who just graduated from bee college with “a perfect report card: all Bs!” (the film is about bees, just FYI). Barry longs for more than the simple worker bee life he’s destined for. He longs to travel into the world of man with the jock bees (they’re like jocks, but also bees).
When I was reminded of the film’s existence, I realized that I had completely forgotten what is at the “heart” of the story: a romance between a human woman (Renée Zellweger) and a bee. The point in the film when this becomes apparent is also the point at which it becomes interesting ― though not because of the film’s actual content, which is banal and boring. Bee Movie is, however, an object of fascination, simply because watching it causes you to imagine how it could have possibly been made? Who wrote this? Who financed this? Animated movies take an age to produce. Not once in those many months (although not too many given how poorly produced the animation is in the first place) did someone stop and think, “What am I doing? Somebody has to stop this madness!”
According to an Entertainment article published in 2007 before the film’s release, it was conceived based on “an offhand comment made to Steven Spielberg, with whom Seinfeld was having dinner. ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if they made a movie about bees and called it Bee Movie?'” Apparently, Spielberg thought that yes, yes it would be funny, and the process began to find a plot that matches that (genius) title.
“‘There were many versions, probably two and a half years of different ideas and stories until we had one that we felt would work,’ Seinfeld says.” What were those other discarded ideas? I dread to think, when the one they settled on was: human and bee fall in love, and bees sue humans for honey use and appropriation of bee culture (one plot thread involves the singer Sting being sued by bees in a court of law for being called Sting).
Bee Movie‘s lasting cultural impact has not been based on the film itself, but the memes it has generated. Several versions of the film exist online, like one which speeds up every time the word ‘bee’ is spoken (and that’s a lot of times). At this point, it’s more a cultural monument than an actual piece of cinema, celebrated for its baffling badness.
What struck me especially was how blatantly unimaginative the jokes are. Most of the comedy is built on bee-related puns, but a lot of them aren’t even puns. For example, the bee world’s version of Larry King is called ‘bee Larry King.’ And we’re expected to laugh simply at the addition of the word ‘bee’ to his name, rather than any clever incorporation of the word to form something even vaguely recognizable as a pun ― however bad it may be?
Bee Movie is not funny but you may laugh at it. Bee Movie is not good, but it may be enjoyable when watched with a group of friends. It’s an example of a film made better by the discourse surrounding it… Or, at least, more worthwhile… Or, at least, it has prevented the film from having absolutely zero worth whatsoever, giving it a minuscule amount of worth.
No matter how little we have in common, we can all come together to make fun of Bee Movie.
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden