Wednesday, October 18, 2006

OVER THE HEDGE

Starring Bruce Willis (Voice)
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


UNFORTUNATE THUMBS DOWN!

AN UNFORTUNATE THUMBS DOWN FILM REVIEW RATING!

Animated films have some stiff competition. Not only do they have to compete against some truly marvelous predecessors (see SHREK, HOODWINKED, and FINDING NEMO), they also have to entertain not just kids, but adults who enjoy taking their kids to watch such films.

OVER THE HEDGE has some great animation and some good voices, but we’ve seen these things time and again. It also has a morally upstanding storyline (i.e., not betraying your friends and becoming a part of something bigger than just yourself), but we’ve seen that ad nauseam, too (ICE AGE). What most movie watchers want — regardless if it’s animated or live-action — is something fresh, new, and engaging. And that is where Over The Hedge fails. We get the same old story, the same great animation, and the same impressive voice cast.

It is the cast that’ll keep you watching it, too. Bruce Willis (DIE HARD) is the main character, starring as RJ, a raccoon with a big problem. He attempts to steal all of the food from a hibernating grizzly’s cave (Vincent voiced by the gravelly sounding Nick Nolte, THE GOOD THIEF). When the bear awakens before RJ can make good his getaway, RJ accidentally lets go of all the food and it slides down the mountain and is destroyed. He’s then given an ultimatum: get the bears food back within a week or be eaten alive. So RJ heads out and stumbles upon an interspecies family that have awakened one morning to find their wilderness world encroached upon by a huge hedge. Urban sprawl has come to their neck of the woods, and this ragtag group’s leader Verne (Gary Shandling, THE GARY SHANDLING SHOW) must find out what this hedge is for and why it’s there. But Verne is just one turtle and needs the help of his extended family. They include Hammy (Steve Carell, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), a nonplused squirrel with hyperactive sensibilities; Stella (Wanda Sykes, POOTIE TANG), a skunk with an image problem; Ozzie (William Shatner, MISS CONGENIALITY), an overly-dramatic possum caring for his family; and a few others.

RJ runs into this clan and spots an opportunity to gather the food he needs for the bear. Manipulating his way into the family, he teaches them about junk food, dumpster diving, and the human world "over the hedge." But with the human world comes danger. Most notable among them is Dwayne (Thomas Hayden Church, SIDEWAYS), a varment exterminator. Will RJ risk this innocent animal family in order to save his own neck? The answer isn’t surprising.

Certainly the voices are entertaining, even more so than the script the actors read. Special notice has to go to Steve Carrell for his hyper-Hammy squirrel who avoids caffeinated beverages until the end when his super-speed is increased to Matrix-like proportions. Also, William Shatner’s Shakespearean possum is flat-out fun. But that’s it. And for an hour-and-a-half flick, it’s not enough.

Click here for the Over The Hedge movie trailer!

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