Jerry Seinfeld is finally apologizing for “Bee Movie,” the 2007 animated feature from DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures for which he voiced the lead role and co-wrote and co-produced. Only a moderate box office success, “Bee Movie” has become best remembered in the 14 years since its release for the questionable relationship between bee character Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld) and human character Vanessa Bloome (Renée Zellweger). The plot hinges on their developing friendship, but the film is often made fun of for unintentionally making it seem like the two could be romantic partners. Seinfeld apologized for the ambiguity during a recent visit to “The Tonight Show.”
“I apologize for what seems to be a certain uncomfortable subtle sexual aspect of ‘The Bee Movie,’ which really was not intentional,” Seinfeld said. “But after it came out, I realized, ‘This is really not appropriate for children.’ Because the bee seems to have a thing for the girl. We don’t really want to pursue that as an idea in children’s entertainment.”
“Bee Movie” director Steve Hickner has long maintained that there was “never going to be sexual or anything like that” between Barry and Vanessa, but his writers still believe there’s a murkiness to the relationship as depicted in the movie. Co-writer Spike Feresten once told The New Statesman that there’s no “interspecies love affair” in the movie, but he attributes that reading of the film to the writers’ decision to write the characters without thinking of their bodily forms.
“They would just be Barry and Vanessa, and we would write this dialogue for Barry and Vanessa, and read it over and have to remind ourselves, well, this is a tiny bee saying this, and the tiny bee is fighting with her boyfriend, so let’s dial it back to friend, and make it less romantic, because it’s getting weird,” Feresten said.
The writer added that viewers are either “entertained or repulsed” by the storyline. Director Hickner said, “It was purely this friendship…maybe in Barry’s mind he thought… but it was never going to be that.”
With just under $300 million at the worldwide box office, “Bee Movie” was not the animated hit DreamWorks was used to experiencing in the early 2000s. The film missed out on Oscar nomination, but it did compete for Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes and landed five Annie Award award nominations, including the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature. Also, Seinfeld was hoisted above the Cannes Film Festival, where the film made its debut, in a bee costume.