Over the Hedge
So far Dreamwork's Animation has run second to Pixar when it comes to computer generated cartoons. Certainly, they've had great success with the likes of the Shrek movies, but overall they've been Pepsi to Pixar's Coke. And while Over the Hedge doesn't match the quality of Toy Story or The Incredibles, it is highly entertaining and proves that they are more than a one trick ogre animation company.
Apart from the underlying anti-consumerism subtext (which is so very, very ironic when you consider the mountains of tie-in merchandise available for this movie), the plot is very simple. RJ, the Raccoon (Willis), begins the story by trying to steal an angry bear's winter horde of food while the bear is hibernating. When he is caught and the food is destroyed in the process, he is told by the bear (voiced by gravely-toned Nick Nolte), that he has one week to replace it all or the bear will kill him. Knowing that there is no way he can gather all that food on his own, RJ tricks a group of naive woodland animals into helping him. When the animals welcome him into their group as part of their extended family, RJ begins to feel guilty about using them in this manner and must decide between his new found loyalty and self-preservation.
The movie features a huge cast, with virtually every character being voiced by a recognizable celebrity and is uniformly great across the board. Gary Shandling plays Verne, the cautious turtle who quickly becomes jealous of RJ's popularity. William Shatner does what he does best; over-act, as the possum who continually plays dead whenever threatened, even managing to gasp out, "Rosebud", before "dying" in one scene. Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara both inexplicably feature some amusing Canadian accents. It is Steve Carrell, as the physically quick, but mentally slow Hammy the squirrel who steals the movie though.
Most of the humor in the movie comes from the animal's antics as they attempt to infiltrate a suburban neighborhood in their quest for food. The jokes range from slapstick for the little ones to a few clever quips that only the adults will get. Unlike Shrek, the movie doesn't rely on a host of pop references for its humor and consequently, will probably age better.
The animation is solid, if not ground breaking. Easily good enough for the job at hand, but never really dazzles the eye.
Anyone looking for lighthearted summer entertainment, suitable for the whole family, this is the place.
Over the Hedge
Animated movies do not get much cuter than Over the Hedge. A bunch of adorable woodland creatures trespass into a manufactured neighborhood and proceed to steal and terrorize the residence. As Scott mentioned, this movie has a lesson about belonging to an extended family but what kind of message is it sending with it is okay to take what you want plot line?
Americans are made fun of for their wastefulness and their excessiveness. “We eat to live. These guys, live to eat!” RJ tells the woodland animals about the humans. In another scene they walk by a vehicle and R J says, “That is an S.U.V. Humans ride in them because they are slowly losing their ability to walk.”
The one problem I had with this movie is that it's message gets really blurry as the animals become addicted to they very junk food that the humans enjoy. They also destroy the humans property much as the humans did to the animal's woodland. The movie builds on interesting human observations but ends without making a decent point. Should some woodlands be preserved? Should humans and animals learn to coexist cohesively? A better ending would have been to have an animated Darryl Hannah show up and beat the heck out of the President of the Home Owners Association, and then have one of the critters crap on Hannah. After all Over the Hedge is all about irony.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2006)