Cute, ingratiating, crawling with celebrity voice talent, and steeped in cowriter, coproducer and star Jerry Seinfeld's New York-centric observational shtick, this candy-colored animated fable is an awkward mix of corny bee puns, clever sight gags, kid-friendly action, adult-oriented workplace angst and Seinfeld's distinctive navel-gazing wit. And what's up with those four-legged bees?
Newly minted bee-college graduates Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld) and his less adventurous best friend Adam Flayman (Matthew Broderick) are poised to begin their lives of mindless service to the hive when Barry has an awful thought: Is making honey all there is? Desperate for a little adventure, he defies his lowly drone destiny and tags along with the macho "pollen jocks" (let's just pretend we don't know that female bees do the pollen collecting) on a mission to Central Park and winds up befriending winsome florist Vanessa Bloome (Renee Zellweger), thereby violating the first law of bee society: Never, ever talk to human beings. When Barry discovers that honey-loving humans have been imprisoning whole colonies in prisonlike hives, appropriating the products of their indentured servitude and callously packaging it in bear-shaped containers — bears! — he enlists Vanessa's help in filing a lawsuit. But Barry's triumph-of-the-little-guy victory has dire unintended consequences, nearly destroying the balance of nature before he and Vanessa reteam to set things right.
Seinfeld's first significant post-Seinfeld project was four years in the making but still feels slight and attenuated, even at a brisk 82 minutes. As is often the case, most of the celebrity voices are efficient without being distinctive: Oprah Winfrey as Judge Bumbleton (who looks uncannily like Condoleezza Rice); John Goodman as a blustering Southern lawyer; Kathy Bates and Barry Levinson as Barry's conformist parents; Larry King, Ray Liotta and Sting as themselves; and Megan Mullally, Rip Torn and Michael Richards as inconsequential minor characters. Only Patrick Warburton and Chris Rock breathe real life into their roles as, respectively, the aptly named Ken, Vanessa's brainless, blandly handsome boyfriend (a variation on Warburton's recurring Seinfeld character, Puddy) and a mosquito turned lawyer — "I always was a bloodsucking parasite," he quips. "All I needed was a briefcase. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh