A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Over the Hedge

September 30, 2010

Over the Hedge

In the spirit of Ice Age comes this hyper-kinetic craziness. It’s a computer animated film with a concentration on Warner Brother’s style slapstick humor. (Indeed there’s a bit near the end that felt to me like a direct Pepe LePew reference.) I had watched the beginning of this movie during my lunch breaks at work one time and found it fun, so I picked it up when we had it on sale one day but never got around to watching the rest.

The plot in some ways reminds me of The Fantastic Mr. Fox. R.J. is a raccoon with a golf bag full of useful gadgets stolen from the human world. In desperation and hunger one day he steals some food from a bear he knows. Actually, he steals all of it, and the red wagon and blue cooler as well. Vincent is somewhat perturbed and swears that unless R.J. can recover all of the stolen supplies before the next full moon he will wreak bloody vengeance.

To achieve this feat R.J. cons an innocent group of woodland creatures that he comes upon. These are an odd collection of beasts who all live together in a log in the forest, and who wake up after a winter’s hibernation to find that their idyllic patch of woods has become surrounded by endless tracts of suburban houses. They are a timid turtle, a hyper-kinetic squirrel, a sassy skunk, a pair of possums, a pair of porcupines (with mid-western accents) and their brood. None of them have any experience with humans or suburbia, and so they are easily led by the world-weary and canny R.J., who acts as a combination guide and mentor in the peculiar ways of human beings.

What attracted me to the movie is the great cast they have playing all the characters. As with yesterday’s movie we have Garry Shandling stealing every scene – this time as Verne the turtle. Bruce Willice is the center of the movie as the resourceful R.J. with his magic bag of tricks. Steve Carrell is the big crowd pleaser as Hammy the squirrel. And William Shatner is great fun as the prone-to-ridiculous-overacting possum Ozzie. I feel slightly bad, however, for Wanda Sykes as Stella, as she plays a fairly stereotypical sassy black woman. It’s not her fault, it’s just lazy writing and she got typecast into the role. Somewhat puzzling is the casting of Averil Lavigne as Ozzie’s daughter Heather. Her character seems to be lampooning Averil’s public image – full of vapid “yeah whatever” utterances that I think are intended to be mocking.

The whole thing is very much played for laughs. It’s more cartoonish than most animated movies these days tend to be. As I said before it’s kind of a throwback to the days of Warner Brothers and Tex Avery. Things like R.J.’s golf bag (which reminds me of Secret Squirrel’s jacket – it always has just the right tool for the job instantly at hand.) Things like the common cartoon device of the turtle with the removable shell. Things like every skunk joke they make at Stella’s expense. They might as well have given the balding exterminator at the end of the movie an Elmer Fudd accent and had done with it.

You feel at times that the movie has something more to say. Something about rampant consumerism and human wastefulness, for example. (And let me go on record as saying how pleased I was that the film makers chose to create all their own brands rather than inserting product placement from our real world. It was jarring in Antz and it would have been absolutely omnipresent and unbearable in this movie.) There’s also a message about family and sticking together. (If this had been a Pixar movie, for example, you can bet we’d know a lot more about what happened to R.J.’s family and why he is so alone at the start of this movie. There are references to it, and I think it’s supposed to drive his character, but it’s kind of sidelined by all the comedy and I’m not sure if we’re actually intended to take what he says about his family seriously.)

Mostly, though, it’s about the laughs. There might be a tender moment here and there, but then there’s a chase scene or Hammy running around being manic or a joke about Ozzy over-acting and we forget the sentimentality in favor of more silliness. It has a fun climactic scene that steals its resolution from one of our favorite Futurama episodes. It has a somewhat distracting grunge inspired soundtrack of custom songs during the montage scenes. It has a lot of frenetic activity and very little actual plot or resolution.

I’d say overall it is a fun but inconsequential movie. I enjoyed it well enough without every really caring about it. Mostly I watched it for Garry Shandling and William Shatner, and let the rest just kind of flow around me.

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

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