The Secret Life of Bees

Rated 3.0

In the segregated South of 1964, a teenage runaway (Dakota Fanning) and her African-American best friend (Jennifer Hudson) take refuge with an Earth-mother beekeeper (Queen Latifah) and her sisters (Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo). Written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood from Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, the movie isn’t very good, but it’s almost impossible not to like, in a pat-on-the-head, half-patronizing sort of way. The movie has a disarming warmth and sweetness, but it’s also contrived, with a forced dreaminess, and plot points are arbitrarily dropped once they’ve served their purpose. Prince-Bythewood has her actors walk softly and speak in quiet tones, as if afraid to disturb the beautiful mood—but in so carefully avoiding tipping over into melodrama, she neglects to instill much drama at all.