Friday, October 5, 2007

From the Archive: Interview - Jerry Seinfeld Finds his Inner Bee

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

This article is a very special feature - it's an interview I took part in (alongside several other reporters) with Jerry Seinfeld when his animated feature film, "Bee Movie," was debuting in theatres.  

Continue reading after the jump to access my interview article, "Jerry Seinfeld Finds His Inner Bee."

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“Jerry Seinfeld Finds
His Inner Bee”
Interview Report originally published October 5th, 2007

If I had to sum up my feelings toward bees in one word, it would be "annoying." They flutter around buzzing and getting into anything you might be eating that contains sugar. But while bees might be annoying, they're also some of the most sophisticated and organized species on the planet, and are the subject of Jerry Seinfeld's new comedy, "Bee Movie.”  I was one of the lucky ones who got to interview the comedian about his upcoming film concerning the insects.

“Bee Movie,” opening in theaters November 2nd, is the brain child of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who not only provides the voice for the lead character, but serves as producer and writer on the film.  Some of you might have noticed that the title of the movie sounds like the same connotation used to describe a lower-quality movie, but Seinfeld meant that.  “That was my intention; actually, as I wanted to associate it with those bad movies just because I thought that would be funny.”

In the film, Berry, a worker bee, leaves the hive to seek his fortune, and makes a friendship with a nice girl named Vanessa.  One of the primary plot points of the films is about Berry filing a lawsuit against humanity for “stealing” honey from humans.  When asked where he came up with this hilarious premise, Seinfeld said that “...I figured that bees don’t know we’re taking their honey, and what if they found out?  What would they do?” According to Seinfeld, they’d go to the legal system.  “...I see bees as very civilized and very elevated socially and I thought they would want to try and do this in the most civilized way. And they wouldn’t want to be violent. They wouldn’t want to organize an attack. They’d say let’s try and do this like grown-ups. Let’s settle our differences like mature adults. And that’s why they go to the court system.”

Seinfeld’s done plenty of research about bees in preparation for the film; Seinfeld says that he gained an enormous respect for bees while researching them for the movie.  One of the things he loves about the creatures is the way they fly.  “...For example, bees have a way of flying that is totally unique to bees. [They make] a scooping motion [with their wings while every other] insect just flaps it up and down like an idiot.  Bees have this very clever kind of scooping motion, because otherwise their wings are too small for their fat little bodies and they couldn’t get off the ground.”

The root of the comedy of the film comes from trying to show bees if they could talk and communicate, and what they would say and do.  Seinfeld picked bees over other insects because they “...are the funniest. Because of the way they live and what they do and the things that they’re involved with and that they have a real social society like human beings do.  They all live together and they live in their little apartments and they stick together and they don’t go out on their own and they work together. And bees are actually the only other animals on earth besides humans that actually have a language. When they come back from a patch of flowers, they will give the other bees in the hive directions to get to those flowers and they act out this little dance which is literally a language.”

Much of the film’s humor stems from how bees supposedly see humans. “When Barry first gets back to the hive and his friend says to him, I can’t believe you were talking with humans, [they say] what are they like? Do they try and kill you like on TV? And Barry says, some of them do, but some of them don’t, and they eat big crazy things, they say crazy things and they drive around real crazy.”

The film’s plot, in some ways, mirrors Seinfeld’s own life journey, in that Berry the Bee wants to do something different than what he’s being offered as a bee. “I think as a young man I kind of thought, I wonder if I could do something different than the choices that were offered to me in school, even in the drama department in school. It was like, you can be an actor, you can be a writer, but none of those things interested me. And then when I became aware of the stand-up comedy world, which was kind of thing onto itself -- that’s a very unique little thing -- I thought that’s for me. I want to do something that’s kind of off on its own and not part of the main stream.”

The humor, Seinfeld says, is different than what people are used to in a family comedy. “I think the [film] is a little different than [people] may have seen in other animated films, and I think it’s a little more similar to the kind of comedy that I do in the show. Not that it’s risqué in any way, but just the tone of it, I guess the humor in my show [gives you a similar feeling] in the movie.

The humor of the film looks to be both sophisticated and on the same level as a family comedy, something Seinfeld didn’t always shoot for.  He originally just thought of it as another comedic project. “I really kind of thought that this just would be a really funny movie and it would be fun to make. But now as I’m finishing it, I’m thinking more that this is going to be a wonderful gift to children of the world, just a funny little movie about a subject that no one has ever made a movie about before. So now I’m really excited about it as a gift to children.”

Seinfeld also hopes that children will pull some important lessons from the film.  “Everything in nature is related is one lesson that comes out of the movie. That bees just - they just go to the flowers and then they go home and they make honey and then they go back and they go to flowers and they go home again.  And they never realize that that little job that they’re doing, because they do it so well, has this huge effect on nature and biology and the world of pollination...and that’s the other message that I like that’s in the film: [take a] little job seriously.”

Of course, there are other elements of the movie Seinfeld hopes kids don’t try to emulate.  “....I hope [kids] don’t go up to bees after this. That’s what I’m worried about is a lot of kids seeing bees after the movie and trying to go pet them.”

With all its humor, creativity and messages, the project is very close to Seinfeld’s heart, demonstrated early this year at Cannes when he came out on stage in a bee costume.  “I was thinking, yeah, I must love this movie a lot to be doing this. much of what I do is so embarrassing anyway; it wasn’t that big a deal. It wasn’t that different.”  Seinfeld also got to work with some of his friends and colleagues, something that heightened the experience of the film.  “I know all of these people and they’re all funny and we share a similar sense of humor. So it’s easy for them to understand what I’m trying to do....I didn’t know everyone, but I knew a lot of them and I just kind of know that their mind is twisted a little bit like mine and that makes for a fun working relationship when you’re doing comedy.”

As much as the project is a labor of love for Seinfeld, it’s also a totally new experience.  “The biggest challenge is that movies are long. [A movie] goes on for a long time. The TV show is over in 22 minutes and movies just go on and on and on. So it was challenging to keep it funny and interesting for that long a period of time. But I think we did it.”  Seinfeld isn’t sure he’d ever want to do another feature-length film.  “Each [movie] is such a long project. And for me, being the writer, as well as being in the thing, it’s a very big investment of time and energy. I guess I’ll probably wait and see how people like it and what people say.  I like to try new things. So that’s what attracted me to this. I’ll probably try to do something different again after this.”

When asked if he’d ever come back to TV (a question on all Seinfeld-fans minds) he said “No, I would never - I could never do a TV show better than the one I did. And I wouldn’t want to do another one that’s worse. That would be depressing.”

Perhaps we won’t see Seinfeld doing entertainment for a while now.  When Seinfeld was asked how he balances raising a family and working as a comedian, he said “...I am unable to. And as a result I’m not going to work as much after this because I have worked a lot in my life and now I want to make my family more important.  After this movie, I don’t know if I’m going to do anything for a while besides perform stand-up, which doesn’t require that much time. You know you can go out for a night or two and come home.” 

No matter what Seinfeld chooses to do next, I think he’ll always be remembered, if not for Bee Movie and some of his other projects, for his groundbreaking sitcom.  When asked what he would like to be remembered for, Seinfeld said “Oh, that’s a heavy one,” and paused for a moment.  “I think that the humor in everything I did was original and hopefully funny, but that’s what I would like - I try to be original. I try to do things where people feel like, well gee, I haven’t seen anything like that or that feels new and fresh. That’s important to me.”

Jerry Seinfeld is certainly a master of originality.  His sitcom is the kind of show that you can find in syndication on multiple channels, and just start watching and enjoying it at any time.  It feels fresh, original, and funny even in re-runs, and if Bee Movie captures even half of the fresh and original feel of the show, I think its going to be a classic. 

Bee Movie opens in theaters everywhere November 2nd.

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