Bee Movie is the most unbeelievable DreamWorks Animation movie ever made. There wasn’t much buzz when it first came out, but Bee Movie made an out of nowhere come back in the 2010’s. It beecame an internet meme thanks to my generation realizing how truly bizarre the movie is. I was 12 years old in 2007 and Bee Movie was the first DreamWorks movie my brother and I saw by ourselves. I fondly remember the movie, but I definitely questioned its unusual concept when I was a kid. After focusing on an ant colony with adult comedian Woody Allen as the unexpected lead, Bee Movie beecame the first animated movie to focus on a bee hive. Understandable considering how layered a bee civilization is (luckily I’ve never been stung). Less understandable is stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld making this his only major film role after Seinfeld ended. “What’s the deal with bees anyway?” Bee Movie was first marketed with unusual live-action concept trailers of Seinfeld in a bee costume. I was so confused since I was too young to have watched Seinfeld at the time. Along with Seinfeld’s awkward stand-up based humor, Bee Movie is about 80% bee puns. Bee Movie beegins with an inspirational quote about the science of bee flight.
You might expect a realistic approach to bee life, but Bee Movie really goes for a modern hive approach where bees wear black & yellow striped clothing, sharpen their stingers, and make honey at Honex Industries. They also do stranger things like use their antenna as a phone and drive in little cars despite having wings. Not to mention honey being an all purpose product. Like Antz, bees have unusually human faces. Seinfeld practically plays himself as Barry B. Benson. The only bee to ever question the hive mind that is working one job for the rest of a bee’s life. Matthew Broderick tries to bee cautious as Barry’s best friend Adam, but Barry yearns to leave the hive. The only bees that leave are the pollen jocks who collect nectar and spread pollen with extracting equipment. Bee Movie really gets weird when Barry ends up lost in New York where he meets the love of his life. An attractive human florist named Vanessa Bloome voiced by Renée Zellweger in her second DreamWorks role. And yes, they do call a lot of attention to the fact that it’s a bee/human romance. When I was younger, the oddest aspect of Bee Move was all bees being able to speak, but choosing not to. Barry & Vanessa learn about each other’s lives before things take another turn. The biggest conflict comes when Barry discovers all the honey in a supermarket and investigates the source. Along the way flying into Chris Rock doing his second DreamWorks role as the mosquito Mooseblood.
Beekeepers are made to look like over-the-top villains and their mistreatment of bees is so much that Barry actually sues the human race. Followed by a news interview with Bee Larry King. There really aren’t any specific villains apart from two of the biggest scene stealers. Patrick Warburton is absolutely hilarious as Barry’s dimwitted romantic rival Ken. Meanwhile, John Goodman entertains as a stereotypical Southern big city lawyer. The court battle amps up the weirdness with appearances from Sting, Ray Liotta, and Vincent the bear from Over the Hedge. The only Disney jab is Winnie-the-Pooh being tranquilized while Piglet watches. Barry ultimately wins the case, but this is a late 2000’s movie. So expect a last minute environmental message. Bees are so important that every flower on Earth dies. The only hope is for Barry & Vanessa to fly a plane full of flowers back to New York with the help of the hive. Bee Movie is full of black & yellow (hello) that’s pleasing to look at in computer animation. Bee jokes can bee a little insufferable at times, but at least they use ironic songs like “Sugar Sugar” or “Here Comes the Sun.” I’ll even admit that the B movie pun used for the title is pretty clever. Bee Movie is beeyond bizarre in a way only DreamWorks can pull off.
Barry flies with the pollen jocks
Flubber brought The Absent-Minded Professor into the modern age. The extreme 90’s was a decade where Disney embraced CGI and began remaking their older classics. I would’ve been 2 years old if I saw Flubber in theaters like I assume I did. Otherwise, most of my memories are of seeing it on TV or possibly VHS. It was never a favorite, but I fondly remember Flubber. After seeing the original, I can definitely tell what the problems are.
Flubber was written by John Hughes and stars Robin Williams as the very forgetful Professor Brainard. Names are changed to fit the 1997 setting and Brainard’s very patient fiancée Sara is now promoted to teacher. Marcia Gay Harden gives her a bit more depth, but Weebo is the true MVP of the remake. Instead of a dog, Brainard’s closest companion is a female hovering robot with an unrequited love for her inventor. She’s strangely similar to Tinker Bell in Hook. Weebo is especially memorable for her monitor that mostly displays Disney clips.
In order to really draw kids to the movie, Flubber is given sentience and a mischievous personality. The little green mass of flying rubber has multiple scenes of it bouncing around or performing a dance number for no apparent reason. Everything else is similar to the original. Christopher McDonald is the smug romantic rival, there’s a much more downplayed flying car, and a businessman trying to close down Medfield College with his son. His henchmen are just given more comedic scenes. They recreate the Flubber basketball scene well enough, but it’s actually Flubber that the villain steals in the bouncy conclusion. Flubber is a silly remake with a lot of heart.
Professor Brainard discovers Flubber
Remake of: The Absent-Minded Professor
Son of Flubber is the very first Disney sequel. Which is just as rare as using black & white, because Walt Disney wasn’t a fan of sequels. It’s so forgotten that I actually had to seek out Son of Flubber. I have no idea what the title is supposed to be referring to. Since Professor Brainard and his wife Betsy don’t have a son. It might be referring to the Flubber gas that Brainard invents, but the title still doesn’t make sense.
Son of Flubber wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as The Absent-Minded Professor. I think they took it a little too seriously. The bouncy fun of the first movie is instead replaced by financial problems, marital problems, and legal problems. The Government doesn’t pay Brainard what he deserves, there’s a love rectangle that goes on forever, and a court battle replaces the exciting flight over Washington from the first movie. The only thing I found funny was a commercial for Flubber products.
The entire original cast returns to rehash a lot of what came before. Mr. Hawk is once again after Brainard’s breakthrough invention and Shelby is once again terrorized by it. The Flubber based invention is a practically magic weather gun that creates rain clouds. Hawk’s son Biff is now working with the Professor in a subplot that changes the Medfield College sporting event from basketball to football. The Flubbery inflatable football scene is more goofy than inspired. Son of Flubber retains its mostly impressive special effects, but forgets to have fun with it.
Professor Brainard aims his weather gun
Preceded by: The Absent-Minded Professor
The Absent-Minded Professor is the original Flubber extravaganza. The original movie is good clean fun with a lot of bounce and pep for a live-action Disney movie. As a 90’s kid, I of course grew up with flying rubber. I wasn’t aware of The Absent-Minded Professor since the title is different from the remake. It’s notable for being an extremely rare Disney movie filmed in black & white. Rare, because Walt Disney always prefered technicolor. I think the impressive 1961 special effects are the reason for the colorless choice.
Ned Brainard is an absent-minded professor who teaches at Medfield College. It’s a simple story, so Brainard only has his dog Charlie and housekeeper to keep his head straight. Brainard strives to unlock the mysteries of science, but what he can’t figure out are the mysteries of women. Which is why he’s missed his own wedding three times. Betsy is Brainard’s mostly patient sweetheart. Fred MacMurray and Nancy Olson’s chemistry adds a nice romantic element to the wacky events.
Flubber is a simple perpetually moving super ball that can make people bounce and even power a flying car. The bouncing is used in a funny basketball sequence. While the flying car is really the main focus as Brainard flies around in his Model T. He just faces romantic competition from Shelby. As well as the conniving businessman Mr. Hawk and his son Biff attempting to steal the Flubber powered car. Only the people of Washington can appreciate his breakthrough. The bouncing and flying aren’t always flawless, but that doesn’t take away my enjoyment. The Absent-Minded Professor won’t soon be forgotten.
Professor Brainard flies his Model T with Charlie
Followed by: Son of Flubber
Over the Hedge pushed DreamWorks Animation over the edge. Despite its mostly forgotten status, Over the Hedge is a lot more impactful than its given credit. After the Oscar winning Wallace & Gromit, DreamWorks permanently focused on computer animation starting in 2006. Over the Hedge was distributed by Paramount Pictures instead of DreamWorks Pictures. Unlike most of what came before, Over the Hedge isn’t a Disney copycat or unflattering parody. It’s actually based on a 1995 comic strip series. I only saw the movie in theaters with my brother and father because I was still 10 years old and it was another DreamWorks movie. Over the Hedge turned out to be a lot of fun with hilarious characters and zany cartoon logic. The DVD came with a collection of comic strips and the usual animated short, but it was definitely a step in a new direction. Like the comic strips, Over the Hedge deals with average American forest animals in the high tech, food crazy suburban world. The main characters are RJ the racoon, Verne the turtle, Hammy the red squirrel, and a human baby named Clara. The movie understandably increases the number of anthropomorphic animals and omits the baby.
Bruce Willis fills RJ with a smooth talking con artist charm that gets him in trouble with a hungry bear. Vincent is the primary animal villain appropriately voiced by Nick Nolte. RJ’s problem is needing to replace all of Vincent’s food before the full moon. Over the Hedge is loaded with delicious looking fictional packaged food like “Spuddies.” Garry Shandling voices Verne, the nervous leader of a quirky group of forgers waking up from hibernation. Steve Carell is a major scene stealer as the superfast hyperactive Hammy. Wanda Sykes is perfectly tolerable as the sassy and stinky skunk Stella. William Shatner brings his over-the-top theatrics to the dead playing opossum Ozzie and Avril Lavigne makes her unexpected feature film debut as his teenage daughter Heather. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara voice stereotypically friendly Minnesota porcupine Lou & Penny who also have a trio of rambunctious porcupettes. They’re a likable bunch who have their lives turned upside down when they discover a giant hedge between their home.
RJ challenges Vernes old fashioned world views by helping them embrace the food filled suburbia in order to secretly collect the food that he needs. Leading to all sorts of crazy animal antics that clash with the home residents. The first major human villain is uptight president of the homeowners association Gladys Sharp voiced by Allison Janney. She plots to exterminate the “vermin” with the help of second human villain Dwayne LaFontant. Thomas Haden Church is the comedically psychotic Verminator who sets up multiple deadly traps. The truth comes out, but RJ learns to accept his new family by the end. Concluding with an extra crazy climax where Hammy runs at the speed of light to save everyone. Apart from the food, pop culture references are kept to a minimum. With the exception of a Persian cat screaming the name “Stella!” Music doesn’t drive the plot for a change, but there are some nice tunes. The computer animation gives an appropriately stylized look to all the lovable animals. Suburbia isn’t covered a lot in animation, but the environment looks great too. Over the Hedge proves that when it comes to DreamWorks, enough just isn’t enough.
The animals discover the hedge
The Divergent Series: Allegiant is basically the reason why we don’t see final books split into 2 parts anymore. After The Deathly Hallows, Breaking Dawn, Mockingjay, and even The Hobbit, Hollywood got way too comfortable with that money making scheme. Veronica Roth’s Allegiant was finally the last straw. The Divergent Series was barely a hit YA franchise to begin with. So thinking audiences would pay to see 4 movies was a risk that didn’t pay off. Allegiant bombed at the box-office and I’m partly to blame for that. Unlike Divergent or Insurgent, my brother and I chose not to see the third movie in theaters. I honestly stopped caring at that point. The worst thing about Allegiant is that it is half a movie. With the lead villain dead, Four’s estranged mother Evelyn leads what remains of the factions in Chicago.
People are still murder crazy as they execute those who were loyal to Jeanine. Leading to a struggle between the factionless and the allegiant. The wall leading to the outside world has been closed off, but Tris, Four, Peter, Caleb, Christina, and Tori managed to grapple themselves over the barrier. The Divergent Series was always science fiction, but what they find over the wall is so advanced that it feels completely different compared to what came before. The environment looks like another planet with a high tech civilization overseeing the outside world. There are weapons that can shield you with drone technology, holographic Chicago surveillance systems, hovercrafts, bubble travel, and futuristic cities. The convoluted reason for the experiment was for the Bureau of Genetic Welfare to repair a contaminated world with genetic testing or something.
Shailene Woodley grew her hair out a bit, but she barely does anything as Tris is given further tests as the only hope for humanity. Four and Christina are learning military stuff and Peter and Caleb are off surveilling. The only new characters worth mentioning are Nita, Matthew, and the Bureau’s leader David. Without Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels takes over as the clearly evil shady government type. The conflict involves gene purity vs. the damaged citizens of Chicago. The Bureau raid the wastelands to steal children and wipe their memories with amnesia gas. Something they plan to do in Chicago during an anti-climatic climax that was clearly meant for a midway point. The threat of the Bureau continues to loom in the background, but we’ll never see the conclusion since the awkwardly titled The Divergent Series: Ascendiant was cancelled. Like the story itself, Allegiant is proof that forcing a movie to be divided for no reason leads to chaos.
Tris and Four flee Chicago
Preceded by: The Divergent Series: Insurgent
The Divergent Series: Insurgent is basically The Maze Runner if it was overly complex. Veronica Roth’s Insurgent is a sequel book with an equally big word as a title. So of course they gave the movie the mouthful of a title The Divergent Series: Insurgent. I really don’t know why studios feel the need to do that. By 2015, I was really on the fence about commiting to another YA franchise released every year. Divergent just barely won me over with its mostly derivative story. Insurgent is another story, because any problem I had before is too much in the sequel. The main focus is tension between factions of the dystopian Chicago. After Erudite nearly killed all of Abnegation with mind controlled Dauntless soldiers, the divergent Tris, her brother Caleb, rival Peter, lover Four, and Four’s estranged father Marcus hideout on the Amity farm. Ray Stevenson sort of has more to do as Marcus.
Makihi Pfeiffer and especially Jai Courtney are much more evil on their pursuit to find divergents. All in an effort for Jeanine Matthews to open some kind of puzzle box. I remember finding Tris very unlikable in the sequel due to her violent tendencies, but the entire movie is uncomfortably violent (and not in an action sort of way). I think I just didn’t like her short hair, because Shailene Woodley’s performance is the strongest part of the movie. Her out of nowhere haircut is mostly thanks to The Fault in Our Stars. The rest of the all-star cast is mostly just there. You have Octavia Spencer as the Amity leader, Daniel Dae Kim as the Candor leader, and Naomi Watts as Four’s estranged mother Evelyn. She leads the homeless factionless people in an attempt to overthrow Erudite.
Peter changes alliances multiple times, but Caleb truly defects when he joins with Erudite. Tris’ Dauntless friends Christina and Tori are found hiding in Candor. A place where Tris faces her past actions with truth serum. The conflict this time is Erudite using a device to force people to commit suicide unless Tris turns herself over. Since Tris is the only person who can open the box as a super divergent. Something that requires even more tests in some kind of tentacle cable simulation. The visuals are the only saving grace during the climax. Apart from Rosa Salazar’s presence, the obvious Maze Runner connection comes from the box revealing a convoluted experiment set up by the founders of the faction based society. An outside world exists beyond the wall in Chicago that sets up another sequel I wasn’t sure I could commit to. Insurgent tries to have its own identity, but it once again feels like everything else in its genre.
Tris breaks free
Preceded by: Divergent & Followed by: The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Divergent is basically The Hunger Games if it was overly complex. Since YA book adaptations were all the rage in 2014, Lionsgate jumped at the opportunity to keep the train going. Despite the fact that Veronica Roth’s Divergent was only 3 years old and very likely influenced by other successful YA properties. Divergent came at a time when I was getting a little tired of all the clichés. I still gave the movie a theater going experience, but it’s just okay compared to what came before. Just like The Hunger Games (and every other YA franchise starter), Divergent takes place in a post-apocalyptic future set after an unexplained war. It’s a coming of age story where young adults are pitted against an oppressive government. Society is split up into separate factions with unique names. Starring an attractive heroine who also has a unique name. Roth is an outspoken Christian, but I couldn’t say that the surprisingly violent Divergent has much Christian influence. You can tell she was a college student at the time, because it uses so many big words.
Set in a dystopian Chicago, five factions are meant to do their part for the city. There’s the stiff Abnegation for selflessness, the farming Amity for kindness, the legal Candor for honesty, the soldier Dauntless for bravery, and the scientific Erudite for intellect. We initially follow Abnegation, because that’s where Beatrice Prior lives. Like most YA heroines, Tris is special. Everyone in this society has to take a series of never ending tests that figure out what faction they belong to. Unlike the homeless factionless people, Tris is the titular divergent. Placing her in danger since no can belong to multiple factions. 16 year olds participate in an uncomfortable blood ceremony that forever ties them to the faction of their choice. Tris chooses Dauntless since it’s clearly the coolest faction by comparison. They participate in dangerous games, get tattoos, go ziplining through Chicago, and eat hearty. The only problem is there intense competitive tests and equally intense fear based mental tests.
Shailene Woodley is relatively likable as Tris, but her castmates are pretty distracting. Her Spectacular Now lover Miles Teller plays her a-hole rival Peter and her Fault in Our Stars lover Ansel Elgort plays her Erudite choosing brother Caleb. Her actual lover is Theo James as her mysterious Dauntless trainer Four. Tris and Four form a genuine bond due to their shared divergency. If the Hunger Games connection wasn’t obvious enough, both films also share a Kravitz. Zoë Kravitz plays Tris’ Candor best friend Christina. The rest of the cast is filled with the usual big name stars. Maggie Q helps Tris by hiding her divergent status as Tori and Ashley Judd is Tris’ mother with an unexpected secret. Kate Winslet is the high profile actress playing the generically evil government type Jeannie Matthews. The only conflict is Erudite plotting to kill Abnegation with mind controlled Dauntless soldiers. Tris’ family is abruptly lost, but she overthrows the system and it ends on a train to an unknown destination. Divergent is an entertaining enough diversion if you’re willing to accept a lot of the same.
Tris and Four work for Dauntless
Followed by: The Divergent Series: Insurgent
The Lovely Bones is the odd movie out from Peter Jackson’s post-Lord of the Rings work. It’s not a 3 hour epic, but special effects are a highlight. I was intrigued to see The Lovely Bones mostly for Jackson’s directing. Even though I knew the subject matter would leave me depressed. The ending was depressing, but everything else made me angry. Since a young person taken from this world too soon is a terrible tragedy that no one should ever endure. The 14 year old Susie Salmon is much too innocent for this evil world. All she wants is to become a photographer and kiss the boy of her dreams.
Her heartbreaking death in 1973 is at the hands of the despicable Harvey when he lures Susie into a den under a corn field. The 2002 novel sounds so much more horrific, but it’s the supernatural element that was probably hardest to translate. Susie doesn’t become a ghost. Instead she ends up in the In-Between. A brightly colorful and even psychedelic personal Heaven with an upbeat tone. The cast is full of major celebrities like Mark Wahlberg as the father, Rachel Weisz as the mother, and Susan Sarandon as the grandmother. A young Saoirse Ronan delivers a breakout performance as Susie and Stanley Tucci was so convincingly evil as Harvey that he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
My praise kind of stops there, because the disjointed tonal shifts didn’t work for me. The comedic grandmother feels especially out of place. I’d say it would’ve worked better without the In-Between, but that would’ve made it more depressing. The grief the Salmon family feels trying to search for Susie’s killer is particularly realistic on its own. The only direct supernatural aspect is an outsider from Susie’s school sensing her presence. The closure and brutal justice I was hoping Harvey would receive, ended up feeling disappointing. The Lovely Bones saves itself with a positive message wishing us all to have a long and happy life.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is a cross between The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. Despite the mini revival that SpongeBob SquarePants experienced when late creator Stephen Hillenburg returned to the series, the show was way too zany for me to keep watching it. Watching Nickelodeon’s third theatrical movie was more casual for me since I only watch new episodes that are a big deal. Like the anniversary special for example. Although Sponge on the Run was originally meant to premiere in between season 12, the pandemic pushed it to Paramount+ instead. Since traditional animation was dead in the 2010’s, stylized computer animation was used for the second time in the series.
Though it sometimes looks more like a video game, it’s still a shame that I couldn’t experience it on the big screen. Even though Sponge on the Run is pretty middle of the road for me. Series developer Tim Hill understood SpongeBob, but it’s just not laugh out loud like it used to be. The story feels pretty low stakes and similar to past movies and/or episodes. SpongeBob’s beloved pet snail Gary goes missing just like “Have You Seen this Snail?” SpongeBob & Patrick hit the road in search of a mythical city just like the first movie. The only difference is the destination being Atlantic City and the ruler of the seas being the never before seen King Poseidon. It’s just not as clever when he only takes Gary for his slime.
There’s a truly out of nowhere live-action segment just like Sponge Out of Water. The only celebrity worth mentioning is Keanu Reeves as a bizarre tumbleweed sage. Then there’s the expected stuff like Plankton trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula, but giving up unceremoniously. Plankton’s computer wife Karen tells him to get rid of SpongeBob and the movie is suddenly about Mr. Krabs, Squidward, and Sandy realizing they miss him. SpongeBob & Patrick also fight, but it was all an excuse to set up a childhood prequel spin-off called Kamp Koral (that Hillenburg was totally against). Is Nickelodeon really gonna defile his grave for money? Of course they are! Sponge on the Run looks good and has a sweet message, but it’s just another excuse to keep the nautical nonsense going forever.
SpongeBob eats with Gary
Preceded by: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water