The bird and the bee
“BIRDS do it, bees do it/Even educated fleas do it/Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.” So wrote Cole Porter in the lyrics of one of his most enduring songs. The problem for Barry B Benson, the educated bee voiced by Jerry Seinfeld in the computeranimated Bee Movie, is that he falls in love with a human, Vanessa (Renée Zellweger), a florist who can afford a Manhattan apartment with a rooftop view over Central Park.
Regardless of the fact that Vanessa is a WASP, it is against bee law, we learn, even to talk to a human. Barry, however, is a non-conformist bee. Unlike his tie-wearing best friend (Matthew Broderick), he is unwilling to face the life of a drone when they graduate from bee school. As the movie depicts the robotic existence of the worker bee, its production design recalls the industrial landscapes of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Charles Chaplin’s Modern Times.
When Barry determines to discover the outside world for himself, he experiences the kindness of strangers such as Vanessa, who saves his life. However, he is shocked to learn that honey is sold in human supermarkets and that millions of bees are imprisoned in hives to produce it.
It goes without saying that a bee’s got to do what a bee’s got to do, and Barry goes the distance, suing the human race. He cites Sting as an example of bee culture being stolen “for prancing around the stage”. And Ray Liotta has to take the stand for selling his own brand of honey. Barry says he never heard of Liotta, who brandishes the 2004 Emmy award he won for a guest appearance in ER.
Bee Movie is not just about championing the rights of a species downtrodden by humans and swatted with such lethal weapons as Italian Vogue. As it proceeds breezily along to entertain adults and children alike, it’s even more concerned with using more apian puns than most humans could ever imagine, if so inclined, and dropping in even more movie allusions – to, among others, The Graduate and Airport 1975, when Barry asks: “Isn’t John Travolta a pilot? How hard can it be?”
A buzz in the air: Barry and Vanessa