Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Movie Review: "Bee Movie"

Jerry Seinfeld conquered television with 9 years of his hit show Seinfeld. AftIn the ten years since the show went off the air, Seinfeld has layed relatively low, going back to stand-up. He makes his return to the spotlight in the animated movie with the deliciously punny title of Bee Movie.

Bee Movie is, predictably, about bees. They talk and work and have Jewish mannerisms. Seinfeld's bee avatar, Barry B. Benson, is the typical lead in an animated film, one who strikes against their established routine to explore something "new." In Barry's case, this is the human world, where he meets a florist voiced by Renee Zellweger. The two form an unlikely friendship/light romance. Eventually he discovers that humans eat the honey his fellow bees produce, sues the human race, winning, and causing the bees to stop producing honey because they now have all they need. Barry then needs to reverse this new status quo with a plan involving the Rose Bowl. The plot is typical animated fare, but the jokes are kid-like with a Seinfeldian twist.

Jerry gets his celebrity friends to pitch in and help sell the jokes. Chris Rock is a mosquito, Oprah Winfrey is a judge, Larry King plays a bee version of himself, and Ray Liotta plays, well, Ray Liotta. Puns fly at an enjoyable rate, and Jerry's enthusiasm sells about half the jokes. And unlike most other computer animated movies, there really isn't any need to scour the background for easter eggs as all the jokes are presented front and center. Watching it in a theater filled with both kids and their parents, there were periods where only the kids were laughing, periods were only the adults were laughing, and many periods where both groups laughed together.

Now in its third week of release, Bee Moviedebuted at number two, then reached the top of the box office, and is now currently residing in fifth place. What does that tell us? It tells us that this is a movie that has wide appeal, but may appear to be a "miss" to some. However, I highly recommend it if you are a fan of Jerry's or computer animated films.

4 Hivo versus TiVo debates out of 5.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Movie Review: "Dan in Real Life"

Steve Carell has made a name for himself playing naive, sometimes buffoonish, characters. His Michael Scott on the show The Office truly thinks everyone should be his friend. His character in The 40 Year-Old Virgin Andy just didn't want to think about sex. And Brick in Anchorman? Nevermind.

But Carell can also bring the pathos and portray the more realistic roles well. We saw it in Little Miss Sunshine, where Carell played a suicidal gay man. And in Dan in Real Life, he plays a quiet widower just trying to survive without getting too heavy handed. He doesn't overact, never bringing out the trademark Carell yell. When the plot has him falling in love with his brother's new girlfriend, when his mood shifts from puppy love to anger, it all seems natural.

The girlfriend Marie, played by Juliette Binoche, falls in love with Dan over his brother Mitch (played by Dane Cook). Their interplay, with Marie flirting back happily, doesn't seem forced and for awhile it seems like Marie is having a lot of fun while Dan is in misery about betraying his brother. Cook actually acts pretty well in this movie, playing a low-key guy who believes he is in love with Marie and is almost the tragic figure in the story. Except, of course, at the end, where there is some sort of vague ending about how he has moved on, but that ending doesn't spoil the entire movie.

The only drawback of the movie is Dan's three daughters. They are really more like roles than characters, as there is the older understanding one, the middle rebel, and the devoted youngest. The movie basically sets these characters up to first serve as a foil and then serve as signposts of Dan's downfall when the movie needs a climax. In fact, the middle child, with her rants against Dan is mostly annoying than cute.

Overall, this movie shows that Carell is a more than capable actor and he can carry his own as a leading man in a romantic comedy.

3 1/2 Carell Half-Smiles out of 5.

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