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THE BUMBLEBEE FLIES ANYWAY (1999)
A meticulously made film that raises haunting questions about personal identity and the role of mind over matter in treating serious illness, "The Bumblebee Flies Anyway" features terrific performances from a gifted young cast. There's enough precocious wisdom to choke a horse in eerie, agreeably suspenseful tale of an amnesiac boy struggling to remember who he is while boarding at an austere facility for terminally ill youngsters. The world probably isn't waiting for a sober, deliberately paced mystery about the life-and-death decisions of doomed teens, but the pic has its rewards.
Barney Snow (Elijah Wood) harbors a few fragmented memories --- particularly flashes of piloting a red convertible --- but can't recall much else about himself. When he's not trying to recoup memories during therapy with two businesslike doctors (Janeane Garofalo and Roger Rees), he spars and bonds with other patients, including wheelchair-bound prankster Billy the Kidney (George Gore III) and fast-fading cancer sufferer Mazzo (Joseph Perrino), whose twin sister, Cassie (Rachel Leigh Cook), takes a shine to Barney. There's something sinister and potentially wonderful afoot at the clinic , whose sterile environment contrasts with the intense, gamely concealed emotions of young protags.
"If you could let go of your past, to have a future, would you do it? Well, that's what I did. Now this is my life." That is the premise of The Bumblebee Flies Anyway as stated by Elijah Wood's character, Barney Snow. A soft, almost passive film, Bumblebee challenges us to follow a shadowy figure as he builds a new life through new acquaintances in the confines of a Research Institute, where hope for the future is based on the demise of the participants. In many ways, this premise is depressing. But, the focal point of the film is the one character, Barney Snow; and he's in good hands with Elijah Wood as pilot.
The film has a small population. A kidney diseased smart-alecky African-American kid who is mature beyond his years and as warm and outgoing as Barney is empty and introverted, is played by George Gore II. His performance is an important foil to Elijah's doe-soft Barney Snow and only fades appropriately when the real Barney is resurrected. Joe Perrino, as the acidic Mazzo, turns in a fine performance developing the character from the scared tough kid to the brave suicide. His scenes with Barney are pivotal. His sister, Cassie, played by Rachael Leigh Cook, makes for a fine lever to melt Barney Snow and capture his flame and his blooming teen heart. Janeane Garofalo manages to fill in the cracks with her stoic performance as Dr. Harriman. She's a bit sleepy in the part, but it blends into the overall dreamlike state we feel with all the characters, except Barney.
Barney Snow is a perfect canvas for Elijah Wood. It allows him to invent a person on screen for us, to present us with just a little, then some more and more, in a crescendo of revelation. As in films like The Ice Storm and the future Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Elijah Wood demonstrates how the super-star of The Lord of the Rings can project powerfully using minimalism. I have tried to imagine several young actors in the role of Barney Snow and none could have cut the mustard. They would have put us to sleep. The Bumblebee Flies Anyway is about Barney Snow; one character with a little help. I think Elijah Wood takes his queue from the title. By rights, this novel as a film should not Fly at all. Its wing span is too short and its plot line too shallow. But it does, because Elijah is the Bee, and he knows precisely what it's about and how to craft it into our memory.
This film, this quiet little film (No Orcs. No comedy script a la Chain of Fools, or heavy drama like Ash Wednesday or societal analysis like The Ice Storm), moves. It touches the heart like few films I have seen. It's an honest representation of its simple, unlikely premise carried full circle. It will uplift you and stay with you. You will watch it twice, and it will ripen a few more notches with the second viewing. For Elijah Wood fans, it's a must. He is in nearly every scene (unusual for any star) and he reveals a bit of skin for his adoring public. In any event, a film whose premise can be summed up in a single sentence, and might not be able to get off the ground even if shot from a canon, soars because Elijah Wood Flies Anyway.
**Courtesy - Ed Patterson