Bee Movie Reviews
"Title Narrator: According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. It's wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don't care what humans think is impossible."
Bee Movie starts off as typically as any other movie. It's about your average Joe, whose name is Barry, who dreams of more than this "provincial" life. He doesn't want to be a "typical" worker bee, and be tied down by the "man." Rather, he wants to go out and find adventure, in order to be different than his parents and best friend - complacent cogs in the "Honex" machine. At first it seems as though this movie will be taking the Lego Movie route. There's a big corporation in the hive and maybe Barry has to foil their evil scheme, but no. Next, Barry does make it out of the hive and meets Vanessa and her "Gaston" esque fiancÚ. Vanessa and Barry begin their affair and it's never really questioned, save for Gaston who only does it for comedic effect. One day at the grocery store, Barry sees that the humans have been collecting bee honey and profiting from it without paying the bees for their hard work. He interrogates a Latino grocery store clerk about where the honey comes from, and follows a delivery truck to the honey company's headquarters. The audience, as well as Barry, gets to see how honey is made for perhaps the first time. And believe it or not, the following scenes could be triggering. First, there are Nazi looking bee keepers in stark white uniforms holding gas guns laughing at how much fun it is to kill bees, and profit off of their honey. Next, the camera pans out to hundreds of fake hives, reminiscent of either concentration camps or ghettos, where the bees are kept and gassed. Barry is furious over this, and as a privileged bee from Central Park; he has the power into speak up for the oppressed. The caveat is that he does not have the experiences of the oppressed. He ends up suing the honey corporations and wins, but not without a warning by the opposing lawyer who says that this will ruin the "balance of nature."
Honey is taken off the shelves and gets redistributed to the entire bee population across the world. Except the distribution isn't just used to help the oppressed bees start their own hives, but to the privileged bees who don't give anything up at all. Barry's hive receives a surplus of honey for no reason. This is where the problems start. The movie started off with the usual banter about wanting to be something "more," but now it's telling the audience that the "little guy" should be embraced, and small jobs lead to the happiness of society. This is an interesting approach I can admire because it was seen in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. This play discusses the American dream as an illusion, but also the importance of those people who work the jobs that are a "dime a dozen." But Bee Movie didn't start out with this premise. It started out with another message entirely. I see it as a problem because of the mixed messages it's sending, but it does lend itself to a good discussion which is why I praise this movie so highly.
After a few months of not working, Barry's hive becomes lazy and the outside world gets darker because there are no bees pollinating Central Park. Vanessa, who owns a flower shop, has to leave town because her business is destroyed. However, Barry convinces her of his plan to get the bees to work again, and admits that he was wrong. In the end, Barry and Vanessa get together, and Barry convinces the bees to keep working in order to continue nature's plan for them. Barry also becomes a lawyer to speak up for other exploited animals.
This movie, more often than not, has very conflicting messages, but maybe that's why I like it so much. Nothing is cut and dry, there are so many questions, and maybe even too many. However, there are some highly problematic parts. One of them comes in the form of the meanest internet comments come to life. Nowadays, it's impossible to look away from the train wreck that is the comment section, especially on "liberal" posts. There are naysayers who write how the world is "offended by everything" and are worried about the "PC police" infringing their "freedom of speech." That's happening now, but Bee Movie was made in 2006, and came to theaters in 2007, which makes the movie ahead of its time. Bee Movie makes the naysayers "worst fears" come to life with a real "PC police." After Barry wins the court case anything that has the least bit to do with bees, gets banned. Not just honey, but makeup products and even names. They show the police force arresting people who say anything that have to do with honey or bees because Barry brought to light the oppression bees faced. In the film there's a celebrity with the name "Stinger," and he gets arrested and has to change his name. The "PC" bee police are highly problematic because it legitimizes people's fears that acknowledging your privilege and others struggles will lead to controlling "individual freedom," which is not true.
Next, Bee Movie addresses race in a very interesting way. It seems as though Bee Movie takes place in this alternate universe where race, gender, and sexuality oppression doesn't exist anymore. This is can be seen with Vanessa and Barry's relationship. It is never questioned, even though in real life there would be a huge uproar. Vanessa and Barry's relationship mimic real life interracial couples or even LGBTQ+ couples. One phrase that was said throughout history when it came to gay and maybe even interracial marriage was, "What are people going to want to marry next, animals?" And this movie sure does bring that fear to life, but no one bats an eye except the pseudo antagonist, "Gaston," who the audience is supposed to dislike anyway. In addition there's a line that Barry says in court which is, "Are we [bees] going to be kept enslaved by the white man?" After this, the camera pans to the all white panel of opposing lawyers, and the sole black person moves his chair audibly away from them. I don't know if that's funny for calling out white people, or horrifying because they're making light of slavery. Next, there's a Latino man as the suspicious grocery clerk. He's one of the first to notice that Vanessa is talking to a bee. He has an extremely thick accent, as well as a stereotypical lowly job. Since he's the only person of color in the film with a speaking role, I would say he's a caricature. There's no other representation to help shed light on more people of color's struggles, so no, this isn't inclusive.
Next, we have how Bee Movie addresses female characters. There's only two, Barry's mother and Vanessa, his girlfriend. Barry's mother is the typical nagging wife, while Vanessa is hard to pin down because she's so many things at once. She has her own job in a flower shop, so that's something autonomous, but, she takes a back seat to being Barry's support system. She wants to leave her ex for Barry and does so, is that something? Long story short, she doesn't give up anything to be with Barry, but she does just work as a support system, never a main character. She's even given a "Mrs. Robinson" type role in the beginning when Barry begins the affair. He doesn't tell his parents, and instead slacks off at work, and doesn't have much ambition anymore. He's even seen in a pool of honey, with huge goggles on, while his parents stand over him complaining.
I want to also talk about the "balance of nature," and the lessons this movie tries to squeeze in. My guess, is that the balance of nature the movie is pushing, is that bees produce enough honey in order to pollinate the world, and for themselves. But, how do the humans factor into this? Bees have been making honey and pollinating years before commercialization of honey came into existence, so it's not really in a bee's "nature" to produce honey for humans at all! It's in their nature to pollinate and make honey for themselves, sure, but for humans? I don't think so. It's just a cheap excuse to re-enslave the bee population. But Barry and his hive get off scotch free, because his hive wasn't being used for human consumption in the first place.
This leads us to "the twist."Originally, we're supposed to happy that Barry won the case. He finally got to do something bigger than himself, and validate his dream. However, the twist is that Barry winning the case doesn't lead to his happiness. In fact, it leads to disarray and undoing the "balance of nature," that we talked about before. So, what is the lesson? He's an average bee but he wants more. He gets what he wants, he's not happy. He undoes what he thought he originally wanted, and realizes that every single animal, no matter how small, has a place in the circle of life. His friend - who was happy being a menial worker - goes back to his job as a menial worker. The oppressed bees continue to be exploited by humans. Barry's hive goes back to normal. Nothing changes at the end of the movie, except that it validated the abuse of bees, and humans now know that animals can talk. What is this film trying to say?
I think it's valid for the "message" to be something to the effect of, "be careful what you wish for," but, that doesn't work when the film showed bees in peril that need help. It doubly doesn't work when the main character isn't the least bit affected by the cause he's so desperately fighting for. Another message I could try to pull out of this is that we should appreciate all animals do for us, and that even small jobs - in our human world - matter. Not everyone needs to do something grand in order to be important. That's true. But again, they showed the abuse dealt to honey bees in our own backyard. This invalidates any message about the "working man" or that "every animal has its place."
The message gets lost even further at the end of the movie when everything is "back to normal." Barry becomes a lawyer for other animals. He wants to be an animal rights worker because other animals have it bad as well, not just bees. A female cow is shown at the end of the movie wanting to be represented by Barry. This makes us wonder, so now what? It was okay for the audience to see bees and maybe boycott honey because that's not an essential, but meat, milk, cheese etc. are, to most people. It seems as though Bee Movie could tackle animal rights because they used bees - small but important creatures that also don't impact your daily diet. If they made the movie with cows, which produce a lot for humans - including clothing - the movie would be a lot different. But, Bee Movie got away with a lot because the animals they focused on were bees. By adding in the cow, it's like the last nail in the coffin. The movie just sealed its fate to be extra offensive.
So, what do I like about this movie? I've complained a lot about pretty much everything that matters. Messages are huge for me in movies. If they don't know what they're saying, it's going to be doubly hard for me to try to find the point too. With some movies, not knowing the message doesn't work, but for this one it does. It gives us, as active audience members, so much to talk about that I can't say it's a "bad" movie, and for you not to go see it. It is so enigmatic it must "bee" witnessed to be believed. I also like the pop culture references. I know that can take people out of a movie, but they're actually pretty funny. You do have to suspend your disbelief a lot in the film, so if you can't do that, then you probably won't enjoy it. Lastly, the movie doesn't have a villain! That is so rare, but so needed. The villain, one could say, is humanity, the bee companies, or the opposing lawyer, but in reality, there is no villain. The villain is just life's hardships and to an extent, Barry. The movie is complicated, and it didn't need to be. It could have just been a typical "bug" movie like, A Bug's Life or Antz, but no, it was something unique and impactful. In my opinion, it was ahead of its time. It predicted the "PC" police, calling out racism (if only for a moment), and the slow extinction of bees. I give Bee Movie, 10/10 for asking us all the hard questions.