Over the Hedge

2006-09-19 17:49


It's been a long winter and RJ the raccoon (Bruce Willis) is seriously hungry. He decides to raid Vincent (Nick Nolte) the bear's larder before he wakes up from hibernation. Great plan - until he gets caught. Now he has one week to pay Vincent back or he is dead meat - literally. Luckily for him he runs into a group of naive forest critters just woken from their own hibernation. At first his new "friends" - led by a sturdy turtle named Verne (Gary Shandling) - are horrified to discover that suburbia has encroached on their woodland homes. But RJ assures them that the "pink primates" living on the other side of the mysterious new hedge offer rich pickings, and promises them enough food to see them through ten winters. Looks like RJ has found the perfect team to help him refill Vincent's larder - particularly if they think they are filling their own.


In many ways Over the Hedge is nothing new - it's yet another animated feature about cute n' sassy animals overcoming moral and practical dilemmas. But this well-worn structure belies how fresh, funny, and genuinely endearing the film is. It takes a familiar form and twists it slightly off kilter, adding a dose of satire and oodles of quirky absurdism. The result is the best animated adventure we've seen since The Incredibles.

It helps that the filmmakers put the story first, a seemingly simple idea that many production companies are unable to grasp. Instead of putting all of their energy into technical wizardry (2005's hollow Robots springs to mind), the two directors give a lot of attention to the mechanics of the plot. You never feel that Over the Hedge's story exists only to move you between spectacular (and empty) action sequences. It helps that one of the directors - Karey Kirkpatrick - has a screenwriting background in films like Chicken Run and James and the Giant Peach.

Not that the animation suffers as a result. If anything taking the central focus away from technical perfection frees the animators to have more fun with the film's visuals. Of course they still spend massive amounts of time animating each individual hair and leaf in the film, but they aren't afraid to play with their medium. This gives the film a madcap, almost Loony Tunes feel at times, blending the slick modernity of computer animation with good old-fashioned cartoon silliness.

And while the knockabout antics keep the kids happy, the adults can enjoy a delicious (if light) sprinkling of satire. America's convenience-at-all-costs culture may seem an easy target, but that doesn't make it any less funny (or any less applicable to our own follies). Since it is based on a long-running satirical comic strip of the same name, some overseas reviewers have criticised the film for watering down the environmental message. Luckily (or perhaps unluckily) for local audiences, we have no frame of reference, and can only enjoy the touch of intelligence that the satire brings to proceedings.

Another great asset is the voice actors. Too many animated films prize star power above suitability, casting big names even if they don't fit the part. Here they get the balance just right, matching the ability and charisma of each actor with their character. Though Bruce Willis and Gary Shandling give the lead characters solidity, it's the supporting voices that steal the show. Eugene Levy (the dad in American Pie), TV's Wanda Sykes, and William Shatner are all superb, but Steve Carrell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) will win the most hearts as a hyperactive squirrel named Hammy. Be sure to listen out for the marvellous Thomas Haden Church (from Sideways) as the hilariously inept exterminator.

But, for all it's enthusiasm and charm, Over the Hedge isn't in the same league as classics like Finding Nemo. It plays the game hard and well, but the field is too familiar. It's also guilty of the same set of sins as its lesser brethren - sins like sentimentality and predictability - though in this case they are far more forgiveable.

In the end the film's strongest asset is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. You get a sense that the filmmakers don't care if they are making animation history, they are more interested in having fun and then transmitting that enjoyment to us. And fun - blissful, silly, over-the-top fun - has been in short supply lately. Get your dose today - you won't regret it.

- Alistair Fairweather

Stuffed with madcap energy, sly wit and silly fun, "Over the Hedge" is the best thing to happen to animated movies for a long time.

Mo 2006/06/23 9:34 AM
Brilliant One of the best movies I've seen in a LONG time. Brilliant. Go watch it. Over the Hedge
PM 2006/06/23 3:29 PM
Over the Hedge featuring Miss.Lavigne-Lame or Game I think it is awesome that the movie has some new talent in it and that talent couldn't have been any better choice than actress/model/rrock star/rolemodel Avril Lavigne. I think that chick is gonna make it BIG in every tipe of business.Likewise the movie is AWESOME!!! Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire(it is the best Hp movie yet)
kghjyfs 2006/06/23 5:09 PM
djfju jtrjtrjtrj yes
kelley 2006/06/23 5:13 PM
Over the hedge i think it was brillaiant Take the lead
Elaine 2006/06/26 12:00 PM
Over the Hedge is Great My family of 5 absolutely loved this movie. From the 11 year old to the 43 year old thought the movie was fab. We loved the subtle touches of the HP products being used. I would definitely recommend this movie.
JeSTER 2006/07/17 6:50 PM
Over The Hedge this movie was off duh chu'zannnneeee...'they looked so life like, dam you plastic mouldsman..' that line killed me, hahaha
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