Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bees in New York

Almost expected Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" before this happened. I mean, really now?

For anyone who has been following me on Twitter, I've been frequently fangirling Seinfeld and watching as much of the reruns as possible on television syndication because that's the best way for Seinfeld newbies to become accustomed to Seinfeld. It's pretty much on television four or five times a day.

I've never quite thought about it before, but it is arguably the greatest American sitcom ever. It's well-written, funny, compulsively re-watchable, wonderfully acted, and all that nothing has directly contributed to the nihilist and existentialist thought in pop culture's mechanical consciousness. Seinfeld is a grand "f--- you" statement to and about life but at its best, an oddly profound and instantly relatable collection of scenes from the awkward simplicities of living and breathing.

However, Seinfeld is woefully underrated in my demographic. While I did not grow up watching the new episodes, I did grow up watching the reruns and I'm sure others have seen it during their moments of channel-surfing. And it is certainly an acquired taste: Until one could actually get in touch with one's feelings of misery, Seinfeld will seem like a cruel, unsophisticated reflection of smug, selfish, superficial New Yorkers.

Yet everyone prefer Friends, which usually plays before or after Seinfeld on a one-hour or two-hour sitcom rerun block. Well, I actually love Friends, since I grew up watching it on a regular basis and saw the last three seasons when it was still on NBC. Yeah, I, too, would love to be one of the six, frolicking in a fountain and being cute and cheerful all the time, but as I know and you know, sometimes karma is a vengeful, inescapable cop.

This leads me in to the DreamWorks animated family movie, Bee Movie, which is honestly a ridiculous film that I would have never bothered to watch if I were not a Seinfeld fan. While I do realize Larry David is the main brainchild behind Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld has also co-written some memorable episodes and is a gifted comedian and, in my humble opinion, a fine actor. Seinfeld co-wrote, co-produced, and voiced Barry B. Benson, the hero of Bee Movie.

I am sorry to say that Bee Movie seems to take its inspiration from the weakest episodes of the ADD-induced world of Seinfeld's final two seasons (after Larry David left the show). It is a weird animated feature about a bee who recently graduated from college and has to find a lifelong job. As he explores the possibilities, he encounters a piece of the real world, the human world, I should say. He realizes that humans steal honey from humans and decides to sue the human race, with the help of a lovely florist. This all ends on a rather absurd, pseudo-socialist message and makes me wonder how the hell any child is supposed to enjoy the film.

Bee Movie reminds me of another semi-obnoxious DreamWorks product, Shark Tale, which is also another star-studded animated feature which boasts a voice cast that range from Will Smith to Martin Scorsese.

I don't personally know anyone who has seen Bee Movie, but I have a desire to have a discussion about it. Bee Movie has almost everything I dislike about some modern animated movies, aside from its unattractive animation. I can't say I hated it because I did laugh once or twice and I do praise its courageous appeal to the often loopy possibilities of animation, but I did hate how it tried so damn hard to appeal to the adult masses with self-consciously neurotic Seinfeld-esque dialogue and pop culture references.

In fact, Bee Movie is dressed to the nines with pop culture references that are amusing, but rarely laugh-out-loud hilarious or even necessary. This all starts with the title itself. Ha-ha?

Here we have Ray Liotta honey, a Sting cameo (get it?), a send-up to The Graduate and the downfall of the Saddam Hussein statue, a rather mean-spirited scene where Winnie-the-Pooh gets tranquilized, blatant sex and incest jokes, a creepy man-bee-woman love triangle, a possible sociopath, a Larry King cameo, and many other things that are borderline creepy and eye-roll inducing.

This makes me wonder how animated movies sometimes try really hard to cater to both children and adults, especially DreamWorks. I've heard some fantastic things about How to Train Your Dragon, which I haven't seen, but I've seen many previous DreamWorks animated features, and they are over-the-top with pop culture references that adults probably aren't even going to care for and young children will simply not understand. The beauty of Disney and Pixar is that they rely on the old-fashioned mechanisms of good ol' storytelling and great animation and in the end, there's a wonderful movie to be cherished by audiences of all ages.

I winced and squirmed throughout Bee Movie, though I do realize that it is ultimately a good-intentioned animated family comedy about the benefits of working together. However, being a fan only goes so far. C

Discussion: 1) What do you think about supposedly family-friendly animated movies that tries to cater to both children and adults? 2) Have you ever watched a movie you wouldn't usually watch just because it's somewhat related to something you love?


  1. hi,
    i saw some of the tv promos for 'bee movie', in seinfeld reruns as i recall. it did not look good
    at all, very strange; so i was not sucked in. and btw, i guess i am one of the few who did not like larry david's autobiographical tv show - can't remember the name.
    not only were seinfeld's themes pretty universal, but they were quintessentially new york, and everyone would really like to live in new york if they could, or at least know a lot more about it.
    in another post i mentioned an old julia roberts movie from the time of 'mystic pizza', called 'satisfaction'. sweet and fun - if it comes around. also, a very small, but well done, almost home movie called 'quiet city'. i didn't get the whole thing on the dvr, but really enjoyed what i did see, and, of course, set in new york.

  2. oh, to answer your question, it is very hard to do a little kid friendly movie that does not put the average adult into restful slumber, but 'surf's up', i think was the name, with the young penquin and the old timer, was enjoyable.
    i have seen more bad zooey movies than i would like to admit to just because i adored her in 'all the real girls'. i think she has pretty much faded from the movie scene now that she has gotten old - 30, and has the singing gig, and a husband, and, no doubt, something else cooking.

  3. I had a very weird experience with Bee Movie. My wife and I saw it in the theater after a margarita or two at a Mexican restaurant, and we found it funny and enjoyable. Though it must have been the margaritas talking, because when we re-watched it, we agreed it wasn't that great. I think I like it better than you, but rarely have I experienced a movie decrease so much in subjective value to me on the second viewing.

    Yeah, I think one of the best excuses to see something that wouldn't ordinarily interest you is because it's got a hint of something that does. You're right, though -- usually you're disappointed.

  4. @Richard
    After watching six episodes of the first season of Larry David's show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, I was rather underwhelmed. I think I would watch more episodes some time in the future, but for now, I'll just keep watching those great Seinfeld reruns.

    I'd love to live in New York. I was born there. But I've been living in California since my early childhood so I've grown accustomed to the amazing California much as I don't like California.

    Well, many Disney/Pixar movies have fans both young and old. So it's not completely impossible. I'm sick of children's films with the self-conscious pop culture references.

    I guess I should watch Bee Movie drunk.

  5. Bee Movie is really my good friend. I am a movie lover. I like to see, enjoy & discuss about movie.