'Maya the Bee Movie': Film Review

This gently perky CG-animated German-Australian co-production is strictly for the preschool set.

Aussies Coco Jack Gillies, Jacki Weaver and Kodi Smit-McPhee lend their voices to this feature adapation of the classic German novel.

Not to be confused with 2007’s Bee Movie, the animated Maya the Bee Movie took over a century to migrate from the pages of an enduring German novel to the big screen.

Along the way the tale of a curious little bee who’s determined to investigate life outside her hive has landed on TV, first as a mid-’70s Japanese anime series and more recently, as a Belgian-produced 78-episode CGI series.

It’s in the guise of the latter that this feature-length, well, 79-minute, English-language version takes its visual cue, with Maya and company now sporting predominantly Australian accents.

The result is safely benign stuff that doesn’t feel all that different from the sort of programming you’d find on PBS Kids and, as such, it’s unlikely this Shout! Factory release will generate much of a buzz beyond female preschoolers.

Also read: AFM: Shout! Takes 'Maya The Bee' for North America

Never quite fitting in with her hive-mates, Maya (voiced by Coco Jack Gillies, soon to be seen in Mad Max: Fury Road) ventures out into the world, accompanied by best buddy Willy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), striking up friendships with a grasshopper (Richard Roxburgh) and even a young hornet (Joel Franco), a species considered the bees’ longtime adversaries.

While the words “nationalistic” and “militaristic” have been applied to Waldermar Bonsel’s 1912 novel, the only allegorical message to be found in this patently inoffensive edition is that it takes a meadow to broker an accord between the bees and the hornets, not to mention tracking down the culprit who stole the queen’s royal jelly.

Alexs Stadermann, directing from a script by Marcus Sauermann and Fin Edquist, keeps the story humming along genially, while the voice cast, also including Miriam Margoyles as the kindly Queen and Jacki Weaver as her conniving royal advisor, provides the spirited uplift.

It’s all packaged in bright, honey-dipped primary colors that should sufficiently engage younger kids while the attention spans of older siblings and parents will no doubt be taking flight.

Production companies: Studio 100 Media and Buzz Studios in association with Flying Bark Prods.

Voice cast: Coco Jack Gillies, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jacki Weaver, Miriam Margoyles, Noah Taylor, Richard Roxburgh, Joel Franco.
Director: Alexs Stadermann

Screenwriters: Marcus Sauermann, Fin Edquist

Producers: Thorsten Wegener, Barbara Stephen

Executive producers:  Patrick Elmendorff, Jim Ballantine

Editors: Irene Wellershoff, Gotz Brandt

Composer: Ute Engelhardt
 

Rated G, 79 minutes
 

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