A one-hundred year-old German children’s book earns a fresh big screen treatment in “Maya the Bee Movie,” a joint German/Australian/Belgian production that fills a few screens in the lull between major studio computer-generated cartoons.
“Maya” is about a plucky, non-conformist bee who pops out of her waxy egg and upsets the ordered world of the hive where she’s born.
Maya is a dreamer.
“Bees don’t dream.”
Maya, voiced by Coco Jack Gillies, is playful.
“Bees don’t have fun.”
Not fitting in, she ventures out into the world near the hive, on her own, taking care to avoid “Gorgo’s Hedge,” the boundary that no bee or bug dares cross. It’s where a “giant, bug-eating monster” dwells.
She befriends the wimpy bee Willy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a grasshopper, a dung beetle, even a boy hornet. Hornets are the sworn enemies of bees, calling them “pollen pinchers” and “syrup suckers” and “daisy sniffers.” “Paper-chewers” is the bees’ best comeback to those insults.
There’s a queen (Miriam Margoyles) and a possible hive-palace coup plotted by the lady in waiting (Jacki Weaver). Will Maya save the day?
Even for a movie aimed at a very young audience, the laughs are hard to come by. There are also a couple of songs of the “Grass is always greener” variety. The animation won’t be keeping Pixar, Blue Sky, Dreamworks, Sony or anybody else up at night pondering “How’d they DO that?” The detail and texture of the anthropomorphic bugs aren’t there, although their world is every bit as floral and colorful as “A Bug’s Life.”
And the politics buried in Waldemar Bonseis’s pre-World War I book, about “well-ordered society” and other hints of the totalitarianisms that followed its publication, are mercifully removed.
But “Maya”, which has been filmed a few times, turned into video games and was even a Japanese anime TV series, is more harmless than entertaining, a limp exercise in cinematic baby-sitting for the six-and-under set.
MPAA Rating: G.
Cast: The voices of Coco Jack Gillies, Noah Taylor, Miriam Margoyles, Jacki Weaver, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Credits: Directed by Alexs Stadermann, script by Fin Edquist, translated by Martin Quaden, based on the book by Waldemar Bonseis. A Shout! Factory release.
Running time: 1:27