Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bee Negative

I realize that I'm in the middle of my super New York saga, but I had to interrupt in order to talk about something current. A long time ago (current?), after buying movie tickets from, *shocker*,, I was asked if I wanted to be added to a list for invitations to movie preview screenings. What the hell, right? I joined.

I got a few invites; Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson movies and whatnot. But all these screenings were pretty far away (whereever the hell Thousand Oaks is). Last week, however, an invite arrived for a screening in Brea. The email said it was a brand new animated movie from the people who made Madagascar. I RSVPed.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge animation fan. I'm just not a fan of Dreamworks stuff. I've only seen Shreks 1 and 2 and Antz. Any of their other stuff never appealed to me. You can only take so much pop culture jokes and crap.

Well anyway, today, when we got to the theater, there was a lot of buzz that we were seeing Ratatouille! And as immediate as a wallaby nibbling at your pits, a representative squashed those rumors with "It's not Ratatouille people!" It really sounded like, "Don't get your hopes up... it's only a Dreamworks film."

There were two showings available, one for guests with kids and the other for adults only. We saw people exiting from the first screening and they didn't look too ecstatic. Not too long after, we entered the theater, but not before going through a metal detector. NO CAMERAS ALLOWED! We got it.

Some Dreamworks rep stepped in front of the theater and told us that we were one of the very first audiences to see Bee Movie starring Jerry Seinfeld. This garnered tepid applause. Actually, "tepid" is too strong a word. And perhaps "applause" isn't the right word either. Her announcement received a few claps. I myself was hoping we were seeing Kung Fu Panda, but beggers can't be choosers.

The lady also warned that the movie was very far from finished and to use our imaginations, BUT she guaranteed that everything would be perfect when it hits theaters at the end of this year (good luck with that).

So if you can't tell from my tone by now, I really didn't like the movie. But let me tell you about the plot first.

Bee Movie is about a bee named Barry who has just graduated from whatever schooling bees go through. He's about to pick a job, but for bees, once you pick a job, you're stuck with that job for the rest of your life. So, before making that monumental decision, he decides to see life outside the hive. He ends up in an apartment and saved from being squashed by a woman named Vanessa. He becomes infatuated with her and decides to thank her (talking to humans is a very big no-no). He talks to her, she's surprised, they start talking about stuff. I don't want to ruin everything, but things end up where Barry sues the human race and then there's a big ecological message and it's over.

So why didn't I like this movie? Firstly, the animation feels very dated. Yeah, 90% of the movie was done in animatics or sketches, but there were many parts that looked complete. And judging based on these segments, it looks like the same stuff they've done years ago. The humor has some of Seinfeld's dry wit in there, but a lot of jokes fall flat. The entire movie just has a "been there/done that" feel. It just seems like the same old Dreamworks. As I checked my watch numerous times through the movie, I kept saying to myself "nobody asked for another bug movie."

Granted, the only thing I thought was refreshing was the whole bee/human love angle. Yes, it's ridiculous, but I thought it was pretty delightful, fresh, and promising. But the story veers from that and goes into boring territory. And don't even ask me about the preposterous airplane climax. Or why a "Bee Larry King" is supposed to be funny. I mean really, just slapping "Bee" in front of his name is supposed to be clever? And then there's the fact that all these animals are talking and no one seems to care. With Dreamworks, it's like they do anything for a joke. Who cares about consistency and logic. This is the same reason I don't really care for Family Guy much. It's funny, sure, but there's no real continuity there, so I could care less about the characters.

Yes, there were some funny bits, like dead bugs on a windshield, a bunch of bee puns, Patrick Warburton; I think that's about it.

After the movie, one lady behind me thought it was just fantastic and so funny. The fellas next to me thought it was merely okay, but not that funny and kinda boring. The family on the other side of me thought it was dumb and dull. We all had to fill out a survey and on mine, I honestly rated the movie pretty low. But I think it might score well with critics because the story is so out there and it's definitely geared toward adults. I mean, with Jerry Seinfeld yapping throughout the entire thing, you'd have to love him in order to get through this film.

Then again, this movie was a stark contrast from Ratatouille from Disney/Pixar, which I saw last week at a nationwide sneak preview. Ratatouille was so original, so beautifully and lushly animated, and cleverly funny. I saw it a week ago and have been thinking about it all week. I can't wait to see it again next Saturday.

So anyway, unless they drastically punch up the story and the animation gets eye-poppingly gorgeous, this movie should fizzle this winter.

Going back to our regularly scheduled program,