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Family Movie Review: Maya the Bee Movie (G)

MayaTheBeeMovie ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: G         Length: 88 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 3+. The film skews very young, with no language issues (although there are some jokes about “beehinds”) or romantic subplots. There are some action sequences, like a faceoff between bees and bats trying to eat them and a battle between bees and hornets, but the situations all defuse quickly and often humorously. Not objectionable for toddlers, but probably best for 4 to 8 year olds.

‘Maya the Bee Movie’ doesn’t break any ground, but the movie is charming. The themes about friendship and community will resonate with all, from young children to adults.

By Roxana Hadadi

“Maya the Bee Movie” is about a young bee living in a world where everyone says no: “Bees don’t dream!” “A bee is a good little girl who does what she’s told!” “Bees don’t behave like that!” Although she doesn’t fit in at first, she’ll open her fellow bees’ eyes to everything they’re missing – like creativity, joy, and camaraderie. The film isn’t a groundbreaker, but its sweet and simple messages will keep younger viewers interested.

It’s difficult to catch a truly G-rated movie nowadays, but “Maya the Bee Movie” is one, with a very straightforward plot and uncomplicated themes that should translate for toddler-and-up audiences. The film, based on a German children’s book published more than 100 years ago, focuses on the young bee Maya (voiced by Coco Jack Gillies), who starts asking questions almost immediately after she’s hatched. Why can’t bees dream? What is the great golden orb in the sky? Why can’t bees have fun? She wants answers, but she’s so young (and, it’s implied, inconsequential) that she doesn’t even learn her own name until about 20 minutes into the film. All the bees seem to have other things to do than spend time with Maya.

The reasoning for that is because the bees live in a very rigid society – they each have a task to do, and they do them methodically and strictly, in obedience to their queen – and Maya’s curiosity and energy just don’t fit. Mocked and ostracized by the queen’s most trusted, but simultaneously nefarious, advisor Buzzlina (voiced by Jacki Weaver, of “Magic in the Moonlight”), Maya decides to run away. But when she does, she learns about all the other insects in the forest; realizes that not all of the bees hate her; and understands that the supposed rivalry between the bees and the hornets may not be what it seems.

In all of those new pieces of knowledge is a lesson about friendship, community, and growing up, and those plot elements are made very obvious for young viewers. But they’re presented in a teachable, not cliched, way, so while the story is very familiar (and especially similar to other animated films about forest life that have been released recently, including the underwhelming “Strange Magic” and “Epic”), it’s not bogged down by extraneous battle scenes, love interests, or complex evil plans, as those films were. It moves along briskly, and the bright, playful animation style should keep young viewers entertained, even when things get a bit scary (like the threats posed by insect-eating plants, spiders, or bats, all of which are negated quickly).

Because the film is so light, conversation with young viewers about its messages should flow easily, and could include how they felt about Maya’s personality, whether the bee society could have made a place for her, how the other insects were portrayed (there’s a multi-species sing-along including lyrics like “Just be yourself every day … We come from the same bug family, and we love you the way you are”), and whether the miscommunication between the bees and the hornets could have been solved in any other way aside from battle. And expect some dancing and shaking of children’s “beehinds” – that joke gets a lot of leverage.

Ultimately, “Maya the Bee Movie” makes a case to “never let a friend go,” and that’s a lovely one for the young audiences the film is targeting. The brightness of the film, both visually and thematically, make it a nice choice for families of all ages.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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