2012 Film Challenge #38 - Bee Movie

The sort of film I probably would not watch under any circumstances apart from those which just came to pass – a rainy bank holiday afternoon, and it was on TV. So I watched it!

Bee Movie is a lot like Antz, in that it features the vocal talents of a legendary comedian not usually associated with films of this ilk. And, I suppose, further comparisons can be drawn – a wry, knowing anthropomorphic vision with a very adult feel that's still somehow a lot of fun for the kids.

But if you're going to compare Bee Movie to Antz, you then have to compare Antz to A Bugs Life – and then you have to start asking such questions as “how many anthropomorphic insect films do we need?”

The answer is “one”. That being, of course, James & The Giant Peach.

But if we must live in a world with multiple anthropomorphic insect films, then we might as well judge each on their own merits. I mean, what else are we going to do? Sit around and moan about them? Yeah, but do this and you'll inevitably have a moment of horrible clarity as you realise that you're dedicating precious hours to complaining about a colourful animated feature ostensibly made for children. Congratulations! I'd rather find something good to say.

With Bee Movie, that's not at all difficult.

Whilst we're judging things on their own merits, where this differs from both A Bug's Life and Antz is in shifting the focus away from the self-contained society of insects and instead allowing for humans and insects alike to interact with each other.

This interaction is initially hysterical, later curious and ultimately really quite something: The bees sue humanity for stealing their honey, and win.

I was once told that the first half of this film – that which details the society in which the bees live – is superior and worth watching. I was made to understand that enjoyment dips massively in the second half.

For me, though, it was the other way round. The bee society was nothing particularly new for anybody who's ever seen any computer animated feature made in the past fifteen years or so. The bees live like people, but they're bees!

The second half, though, was original and occasionally very funny in a Jerry Seinfeld “comedy about nothing” sort of way. It even harboured strong messages about eco-system preservation and that whole work/life balance chestnut.

There was even a fantastic send-up of the penchant of animated films of this nature to lazily assume that familiarity will be mistaken for enjoyment; when a bee version of Larry King is told that he has a human counterpart who looks just like him. "It's a common name," he says.

I'm often pleasantly surprised by these computer animated features. I always assume that they'll be lazy, cynical and empty.

But it seems that for every Shark Tale, there's an equal and opposing Bee Movie.

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