A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 214 – Over the Hedge

Over the Hedge – September 30th, 2010

We watched today’s movie early. Like, as soon as we woke up. Early. This is because today is a busy day. A friend of mine is in town for a single day and we’re meeting for lunch in Boston, and then back home and then out to Boston again for the Ig Nobel Awards this evening. We didn’t want to count on being able to fit a movie in between lunch and the Igs so we grabbed something short to put in this morning and watched it as fast as we could. Which, given that we can’t watch it on fast-forward means it took a little under 90 minutes. That’s how movies work.

I’m not sure what prompted Andy to buy this movie in particular. I mean, it’s not that I object to it (we’ll get to things I object to and I will make myself very clear), it’s just that it’s not a Pixar movie. It’s Dreamworks. And while we do own a fair number of Dreamworks Animation movies, Pixar’s the studio that gets the release = buy Pavlovian response in our household. So I’m not sure what it was specifically that made him pick this one out of the list. Was it the 3D animation? Was it the cast? Was it something he heard from someone at work? Was it that it was on sale during a store closing and he figured why not? I don’t know. I’ll ask when I’m done writing.

First, let’s talk about some issues I’ve got. So. This is a movie about a bunch of forest animals who, upon waking up after a winter’s hibernation, find that their little nook of forest has been hemmed in by a hedge and surrounded by suburbia. At a loss for what to do for food, they end up listening to a con-man raccoon. Now, I prefer to think of the character of RJ as a modern trickster in this tale. Tricksters have a long history of animal representation and raccoons seem tailor made for the role. But that’s not a problem. That’s a good thing. My problem is in how very much of a sledgehammer the movie is on issues of modern human consumerism. Of course there’s the junk food RJ tricks the animals into stealing for him. That’s a major part of the plot. But the entire suburban landscape is built specifically to make the point that we’re all filthy piggish primates. I get it. I do. The Homeowner’s Association president griping at someone that their lawn is a half inch too high, the cracks about SUVs holding only one person, the lawn gnomes. I get it, really. But I guess that’s the movie’s schtick, so that’s how it was going to be.

My other issue is Stella. Or rather, how Stella is dealt with by the movie. There are several characters in the film. There’s RJ, the trickster raccoon, who cons Verne (turtle), Hammy (squirrel), Ozzie and Heather (opossums), and Lou and Penny and their three kids (porcupines), and Stella. She is a skunk, and sure that makes sense, given the whole backyard vermin thing the movie has going on. But she’s a shy skunk who hides behind a shock of hair and is totally self-defeating. Why not make her confident? There are two female animals in the main cast, and the porcupine kids are far more visible than either of the parents. Stella’s really it, and then they do this whole Miss Congeniality meets Warner Brothers makeover on her and suddenly she’s not shy anymore! I will, however, give the movie credit for giving Wanda Sykes as Stella some great moments after the makeover, turning it a little on its side. But I still think it could have been handled better. The trouble is, I wouldn’t expect it to be handled better. It would be nice, but it’s predictable that it’s not.

Predictability is really the big issue. There’s not a whole lot unexpected in this movie. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe someone who hasn’t seen the Futurama episode “Three Hundred Big Boys” would have been caught by surprise by the ending. Maybe the anti-consumerism stuff wouldn’t be as much of an anvil to a kid? I’m not sure. It’s certainly fun, even if it is easy to figure out just what’s going to go down. The point of the movie doesn’t seem to have ever been to bring something totally new and never seen before to the theater. It’s not trying to be revolutionary. It’s a movie about animals kids will recognize doing funny things and looking at our world from their perspective. It’s the sort of trickster tale I like best, where the trickster plays his jokes and gets a laugh, but then has to deal with some consequences. It’s slapstick and silly and it takes good advantage of having a great voice cast with people like Allison Janey, Gary Shandling, Bruce Willis and the fantastic William Shatner (he plays one of the opossums and gets to very dramatically fake his own death a lot).

I really did enjoy the movie. I wish it hadn’t tried to bludgeon me with a message and done something more original with Stella, but beyond the message and the makeup, it’s a silly movie with a lot of good solid jokes. There are puns, verbal jokes, referential humor and plenty of physical laughs. The animation is pretty and the facial expressions on the animals are great, especially Hammy the squirrel. I did enjoy Tiger, the cat who lives in the house the animals infiltrate, and not just because my family did once own a cat similar to him, who was convinced he was a fearsome outdoor beast until he’d get outside and OMG MUD. I liked the porcupine kids and I’ve always loved Allison Janey. Message aside, it’s a fluff piece, but fun nonetheless.

September 30, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Compare Ghibli’s Pom Poko http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pom_Poko

    Comment by Doc Wheat | October 1, 2010 | Reply

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