Debra Prinzing

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Bee Movie – can Hollywood really get people excited about pollinators?

November 6th, 2007

bee movie

Inspired that my friend Erin was going to take her 2 youngsters to see “Bee Movie,” and presented with a rare unscheduled afterschool block of time (no soccer practice, no carpooling), I asked Alex if he wanted to see “Bee Movie” yesterday afternoon. The media exposure has been HUGE on this Jerry Seinfeld and Renee Zellweger vehicle, although one reviewer on NPR warned listeners that even though the kids would like it, and Seinfeld fans like me would love the adult puns, there were too many far-reaching elements to the storyline to put this full-length cartoon on the best-movie list.

My son 10-year-old son Alex thought the movie was “intriguing and very interesting,” although, he said, and I quote: “it could have had more storyline and less stupid puns.” (I think he is referring here to the girl-meets-bee romance.)

But a movie is a movie. And off we went. The narrative is filled with lots of bumblebee humor, if there is such a thing. The main character “Barry” (rhymes with Jerry) wears a black-and-yellow striped turtleneck (natch). Barry and his pal Adam (voiced by the adorable man-child Matthew Broderick), are facing adult beehood and the prospect of working at the same job for the rest of their lives in a honey plant.

barry the bee

But Barry yearns to escape from the hive and get a taste of the real world, so he cons his way onto team of elite “nectar collectors,” studly bee-guys with big chests and the real world responsibilities of gathering “pollen power.” Once he follows them out to a floriferous Central Park (where else but New York City for Jerry/Barry?), where the animation portrays crayon-hued perennials and flowering trees from every continent and bloom-season all together in fantastical springtime glory, Barry soon understands that these pollen-patrol guys get all the action. As Barry puts it: “Fla-Ow-Ers!”

Then Barry lands on the windowsill of Vanessa, a HUMAN floral designer, voiced by Renee Zellweger. She saves his life by slapping a waterglass over Barry just when her doofus boyfriend is about to swat the irritating bee with the sole of a boot. The animation art highlights fancy-leaf geraniums spilling out of Vanessa’s windowboxes…a notable attempt at botanical accuracy.

Bees are not supposed to speak with humans, but Barry wants to thank Vanessa for saving him….and soon they’re pals (Barry has a little bee-like crush on Vanessa). When he goes to the grocery store perched on Vanessa’s shoulder, Barry discovers shelves filled with jars of honey. And he is shocked to learn that humans are “stealing” the golden fruits of bee labor, so to speak.

With all of the righteous indignation you’d see in Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine (and even Newman) over the Soup Nazi’s rules, Barry decides to “sue” the human race (actually the five mega-honeymaking corporations). It all unfolds rather like a classic Seinfeld episode. As Jerry would say: yada, yada, yada. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the plot for you.

But in the end, the bees wrest control of honey-making from corporate demons (represented by a diabolical John Goodman-voiced defense lawyer) and Barry and Vanessa end up together, in a kind of platonic-romantic partnership where she sells cut flowers and he dispenses legal advice to the animal kingdom.

I kind of like the fact that the film’s big climax is the point at which Barry educates Vanessa about the essential role bees play in the plant world. When the bees at Honex (the fictitious company where generations of bees spend their lives making gobs of honey) decide to stop pollinating and instead take an early retirement, all the plants start to shrivel and die. The movie makes this point: plants live because pollinators help them reproduce.

Wow. Okay. so then I come home from the movies and I am sorting through piles of magazines and newspapers (we subscribe to more than a dozen monthly magazines, plus the NYT and LATimes – we are a reading household that never catches up with all the words available to us!) , and I came across the October issue of Puget Consumer Co-op’s Sound Consumer newspaper. The cover story: “Colony Collapse Disorder: Revisiting the Hive.”

How timely to read that organic beekeepers and small diverse organic farms are “living solutions” to the threat of Colony Collapse Disorder. The article, by Debra Daniels-Zeller, explains that honeybees are disappearing, plagued with parasites, diseases, and the threat of pesticides. She quotes Todd Hardie from Honey Gardens Apiaries in Vermont: “Bees are the canary in the coal mine,”….the loss of pollinators is a sign that agriculture is out of balance due to pesticides.

So Jerry Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie” doesn’t tell the WHOLE story, but I urge you to support local, organic honeymakers who encourage bees and other pollinators to thrive and do their bee-worthy jobs in this world. In organic honey-solidarity, I think I’ll have a dollop of my Pender’s Honey Farm (Camarillo, CA) pure honey, straight from the Thousand Oaks Farmer’s Market, with my yogurt and strawberries tomorrow for breakfast.

P.S. Hat’s off to Dreamworks for entering into a joint-marketing deal with The National Honey Board (it beats those crappy Happy Meals). You can download six honey-themed recipes from the web-site, including:

Stuffed sweet peppers

Pacific rim grilled fish

Mango chicken

A honey of a chili

Honey gingerbread

Honeyglazed roast lamb

6 Responses to “Bee Movie – can Hollywood really get people excited about pollinators?”

  1. Kathy Says:

    You might be interested in two posts of mine: Colony Collapse Disorder: Are there any facts out there? and Colony Collapse Disorder: Bee Virus Strongly Correlated.

  2. David Says:

    Dang, girl, great review!

    Here’s a link to one honeybee blog post I sent up a while back after a long discussion with my local organic honey guy, Roy. FWIW, only.

  3. MA Says:

    UH-OH? Crappy happy meals? Bee Movie has a huge tie in with……..drumroll……..McD’s. Imagine that.

    and what the hell is FWIW?

  4. admin Says:

    yes, I hate to admit it but I saw the McD commercials w/BeeMovie characters yesterday. I will have to amend my story. It was too good to be true.

  5. David Says:

    FWIW = For What It’s Worth.
    Get hip, Aunty Mame

  6. Georgia Fly Fishing Says:

    Although I wasn’t a big fan of Bee Movie (saw it with my friend and her 2 kids), I have to admit that some of their tie-ins are ingenious. Yes, there was the big hype when they had the McD’s tie-in, but it was mentioned here and I adamantly agree with what they did regarding The National Honey Board. With what’s going on in the present day regarding the dramatic drop in honey bees, I thought the movie itself was a good springboard to the serious issue at hand as to why they are in a state of dissapearance from our ecosystem.

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