Saturday, May 10, 2008
Bee Movie -- breaking the rules
Bee Movie, the latest animated film from Dreamworks, is a funny movie. That probably should not be a surprise since it was Jerry Seinfield's idea, was written by him and he stars as Barry B. Benson. It is full of "bee" jokes ("We're very proud of you son and a perfect report card: all B's!"), and insect-takes on standard jokes (a mosquito lawyer says, "Ma'am, I was already a bloodsucking parasite. All I needed was a briefcase"). It is filled with first-rate actors who understand comic timing. And the animation, especially during the bee flights in the outside world, is excellent.
Barry Benson is graduating from B-school and has an exciting prospect of working in the hive for the rest of his life. With one single choice, he is expected to pick his career vocation for life. No looking back. No do-overs, no retakes. His friend Adam (Matthew Broderick) is fine with this. So is every other bee. But not Barry. Barry has a yearning for adventure; that was evident when he took one day off school (total school career lasts only three days) to "hitch-hike around the hive." He is not content to settle down. He wants to enjoy life. He wants to leave the hive like the pollen-jocks and see the world. (Isn't this something that many of us, maybe even most of us, wanted to do when we were graduating from high school.)
When he breaks the rules and leaves the hive he is setting out on a journey that will impact him, his family and the entire human race. Flying outside, he discovers the world is full of color and wonder. But there is also the unexpected and the dangerous, like tennis balls and rain. Through some misadventures, Barry finds himself in Vanessa's apartment about to be killed. When Vanessa (Renee Zellweger) saves his life, Barry decides he wants to thank her, and breaks a foundational rule -- don't speak to humans. In doing this, he begins an inter-species relationship.
Bee Movie raises the issue of rule-breaking. When is it OK, if ever, to break the rules? If Barry had not broken the rules, the story would not have developed. Jesus Himself broke some "rules" such as working on the Sabbath when he healed people of life-long disease or crippling issues. He ate gleaned grain on the Sabbath. But His reason was that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). What rules are right to break and which are not? How do we know the difference?
As Barry spends time outside the hive with Vanessa, he discovers that humans sell and eat honey, even use honey in cosmetics. This becomes a life challenge and he rises to the occassion. He decides to sue the human race, representing the bee kingdom himself in court.
The courtroom scenes are very funny, with John Goodman voicing the southern-inflected defense lawyer (Layton Montgomery). And like many courtroom dramas, at the 11th hour, Barry introduces the smoking gun and wins the case. But winning a lawsuit brings unforeseen consequences when all the human's honey is returned to the bee hives. Now, the bees have an overabundance of honey and need not work. Their life purpose is gone. With no bees pollinating the flowers and trees, they wither and are at the point of dying.
The lawsuit thread brings to mind the glut of legal cases in the United States. America is a suit-soaked society. But winning is not always good for us. Sometimes what we want is not what we need, or what society needs. Our needs and our wants are so easily confused in our greed-drenched minds. Paul said "my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:19). These are needs not wants. The more we live in contentment, the more we will shun lawsuits.
Copyright 2008, Martin Baggs
at 9:00 AM