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Case Number 15961

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The Mighty B! We Got The Bee

Nickelodeon // 2008 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kerry Birmingham (Retired) // March 19th, 2009

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All Rise...

This bee-view by Judge Kerry Bee-mingham was lacking "bee" puns.

The Charge

"Have no fear, Honeybees, for am I your glue! It's a metaphor, everybody!"

Opening Statement

Making entertainment for children is hard. Not in and of itself: there's many a kid, as many comedians have observed, who have been more entertained by the packaging than the toy. But doing it with a modicum of dignity is a rough proposition. Today's animation has to meet a lot of different standards: those of its target audience, kids, who can smell when they're being talked down to, and their parents, who pray that whatever's warbling at them from the television set will not be entirely unwatchable to adults and still able to impart something to their kids aside from loud noises and belching jokes. With all that to balance, it's a wonder that any new animation makes it to children's eyes that isn't outright pedantic, or worse, insulting. The Mighty B! attempts to blend the warm-fuzzy morals of children's cartoons of yore with easy, gross-out laughs for kids and wink-nod references for the adults. It's sometimes cute, often gross, and the latest contender for the time and money of kids/parents/bored stoners everywhere.

Facts of the Case

In her imagination, Bessie Higgenbottom (Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live) is The Mighty B!, superhero supreme. In real life, however, Bessie, is just a kid growing up in San Francisco with her mother and annoying little brother, Ben (Andy Richter, Late Night with Conan O'Brien). If she ever wants to be "The Mighty B!," though, the little girl from Honeybee Troop #828 has to earn all 4,584 Honeybee merit badges, even if it means facing off against snooty troop-mate Portia (Grey DeLisle, X-Men: Evolution) and enlisting the aid of her little brother, her put-upon dog, Happy, and a plethora of neighborhood friends and oddballs.

We Got the Bee contains eight Mighty B! cartoon shorts from the Nickelodeon series:

• We Got the Bee: Bessie desperately wants to play in Portia's band, The Pretty Pretty Princesses. Bessie has to make do with another group, but a Honeybee's duty is never done!

• So Happy Together: A chance to win a merit badge and beat Portia in the Honeybees' annual dog show spurs Bessie to adopt a dog of her own and groom it for competition. The dog, whom she names "Happy," is anything but, though, when Bessie's good intentions take him from the responsibility-free life he enjoyed.

• Sweet Sixteenth: A Honeybee outing to a local amusement is the perfect chance for Bessie to finally ride the big-kids roller coaster. Or it would be-if only she were a sixteenth of an inch taller. Bessie won't take no for an answer, and tries her best to grow that extra sixteenth as quickly as possible.

• Bee My Baby: Portia's attempt to get out of babysitting duty strands Bessie with looking after a gaggle of kids, a task for which she isn't quite as prepared as she thinks.

• Bee Afraid: To earn the camping merit badge, Bessie must face her fears and spend the night in the creepy forest.

• Artificial Unintelligence: When her first science project proves a little radioactive, precocious Bessie builds a super-intelligent robot. Named "Emily." Jealous Portia tries to sabotage Emily, but things don't go according to plan.

• Bat Mitzvah Crashers: An outing at a particularly mind-blowing bat mitzvah causes Bessie and her friend, Penny, to habitually crash local girls' bat mitzvahs just for kicks. When their ways interfere with Honeybee activities, the girls vow to give up crashing-except Portia's cousin is having the bat mitzvah to end them all…

• Super Secret Weakness: On a comprehensive quest to discover The Mighty B!'s weakness, Bessie's "kryptonite" turns out to be all too real and readily available throughout San Francisco.

The Evidence

If you want to launch a cartoon that appeals to kids and adults, you can do worse than use the talent assembled here. Poehler and Richter have worked together since their time doing sketches on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Poehler's experience with both improv and sketch comedy (via the Upright Citizens Brigade and Saturday Night Live) serve her well with Bessie's spastic, hyper delivery. The entire show, while created by Fairly OddParents writer Cynthia True, bears Poehler's distinctive imprimatur, simultaneously crude and witty, absurd and wry.

The humor of Poehler and (the sadly underused) Richter lend The Mighty B! a kind of edgy credibility that belies the kid-friendly premise of the show. Poehler's not doing anything new comedically; Bessie's earnest lisping is a voice that anyone who's ever seen her on SNL has heard a million times in a million sketches. What her involvement does is free the show up to be a bit hipper than its more strait-laced counterparts, and I don't only mean setting it in smugly progressive San Francisco, a setting that lets Bessie run free with her hippie single mom while allowing her to make fun of Asians without reproach (as when Bessie poses as a Chinese diplomat, enlisting the local Chinese restaurant owner to help her commit fraud). Sure, there's the requisite number of bodily fluid jokes to make the young kids giggle. Vomiting, farting, belching; all the classics make an appearance. "The Punisher," the roller coaster in "Sweet Sixteenth," is desirable because it makes you barf—and that's a good thing. Barf there is, and plenty of it. It's pandering and unsophisticated, but in its quest to entertain children while keeping adults sated, you can't expect it to be Annie Hall.

If it tries too hard to wring yuks from yuck, evoking tonally disparate yet spiritually similar cartoons like Ren and Stimpy, The Mighty B! redeems itself with its essential good nature. Bessie is "that weird kid" that all of us have known or been, and her ache to be more than she is while still being exactly who she is rings true. This isn't the kind of morality play where the parent sits the daughter down on the edge of the bed and lays the lesson out for her, a la Full House, but the message is essentially a sweet one. Bessie's nemesis, vain Portia, may die from Bessie's kindness, and there's something admirable in her dogged cluelessness, a cheerful dedication to weirdness that even her stray dog tries to protect. It's not so much preaching teamwork and individuality so much as playfully suggesting that, hey, maybe you can be yourself while maintaining your own quirks. That's what Honeybees do, after all (um, except the individuality part, but you see what I'm saying). It's masked in some gassy gags (Bessie farts into a microphone at an audition), but there's references to things like The Velvet Underground, The Ramones, and a rampaging robot named "Emily" mixed in, so it's an easy joke to forgive. The medium—or in this case, Girl Scout knock-off in need of Ritalin—is the message.

Special features include the episode "Bat Mitzvah Crashers" with an on-screen pencil animatic to compare, a brief behind-the-scenes promo piece, and a karaoke version of "Running with the Rainbow Unicorn," Portia's tween-angst rock song from "We Got the Bee." Credits for every short are included in one long, seven-minute lump and listed as an "extra," though I suppose this is consistent with the unusual choice to chop the individual half-hour episodes into eight animate shorts.

Closing Statement

Gross, cute, and often even worthwhile, The Mighty B! isn't likely to be the next Spongebob Squarepants, but it's a palatable collection of shorts that brings the goofy with a spoonful of sardonic wit to make the lesson go down smooth. It's appropriate and entertaining for kids while giving broad-minded adults the slightest bit of edge, thanks to Poehler and some writers who understand that it's okay for humor to be both sardonic and gassy.

The Verdict

Not guilty. The Mighty B! is free to go. Good luck with those merit badges, Bessie.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 70
Acting: 85
Story: 83
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile

Studio: Nickelodeon
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• All Ages
• Animation
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette
• Animatic
• Music Video

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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