Review: The very bearable lightness of 'Bee-ing'

Jean-Paul Sartre would have had a field day with “Bee Movie.” It is a giddy, freewheeling, clever, delightful animated romp “about nothing,” a thing onto itself, the very definition of existential phenomenon. Some may claim that the movie is about “animal liberation”; you may just as well suggest that it’s a call for inter-species dalliance.

As to the plot, you must have gotten it by now, in aching excess, from its enormous advertising and marketing blitz.

Although produced and written by Jerry Seinfeld — and featuring his voice for the leading character of Barry B. Benson, the adventurous bee-youth with a sweet tooth for a human manifestation of Renée Zellweger — the movie shares only one thing with the “Seinfeld” show: being “about nothing.” Thank goodness for that; “The Simpsons” could and did make a successful jump from the small to the big screen, but no other TV show could or should.

Directed by Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner, this is a self-confident, effective comedy with just a touch of suspense, although you will feel free to visit nearby facilities at any old time.

“Bee Movie” is quite free of the anthropomorphic branch of literature, eschewing analysis of human folly in the guise of ascribing human characteristics to animals, as in Jonathan Swift’s “Voyage to the Houyhnhnms,” Anatole France’s “Penguin Island,” George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and many others.

Don’t look for anything deep on the order of the “Alice” books, and such films as “Babe,” “Charlotte’s Web,” and “Watership Down.” If anything, “Bee Movie” is a kin to the easy, lighthearted charm of “Peter Rabbit” or, more recently (and in an American manner), “Antz.”

Most importantly, “Bee Movie” steers clear of a) the recent mystery disappearance of bees; b) the alleged coming of killer bees (perhaps better known as Apis mellifera scutellata), or; c) the real, all-too-horrid lives of bees. No comedy is possible about the queen laying 2,000 eggs per day for years, about the all-female worker-bee corps literally being worked to death, about the male drones either killed in mating with a virgin queen or expelled from the hive to die.

Yes, there is no mirth in the hive.

But merriment flows freely in “Bee Movie,” in great visuals, funny dialogue and — especially — from a stellar voice cast, which includes Matthew Broderick (Barry’s best friend), John Goodman (as the “morally challenged” Southern attorney), Chris Rock (Mooseblood, the mosquito), Barry Levinson and Kathy Bates (Barry’s parents), Rip Torn (in multiple roles) and many others.

Bee Movie ***

Starring voices of Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Barry Levinson, Kathy Bates

Written by Jerry Seinfeld

Directed by Simon J. Smith, Steve Hickner

Rated PG

Running time: 1 hout, 40 minutes

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