Review by Paul Stathakis | 2006

These friends are entertaining

“Over the Hedge”, like most modern animated films, contains quirky characters, inventive humor, and notable computer work – all the ingredients necessary to a pleasing animation work. It will charm kids and adults equally who won’t mind sitting through 90 minutes which zip right by in cuteness and in laughter.

Vincent the bear (voiced by Nick Nolte) awakens to discover that his stash of stolen food has been stolen.  He catches the thief, RJ the raccoon (voiced by Bruce Willis), in action and gives him a week deadline to return all his food or else. This opening scene sets the tone for the film as RJ explains his reason for stealing the food: “I’m just a desperate guy trying to feed his family.”  Vincent, angry, replies in his deep voice, “You don’t have a family.”  RJ kicks back, “I meant a family of one.”  The characters are as adorable as every bit of the dialogue.

Skip to Verne (voiced by Gary Shandling) and his woodland friends.  As spring arrives, they awaken from their long winter nap to discover that a tall green hedge has furtively cropped up through the middle of their terrain.  They each wonder what it is.  They’ve never seen anything like it before.  They move toward it cautiously.  Hammy (voiced by Steve Carrell), an offbeat squirrel, runs to one end of the hedge.  He informs his friends that it never ends.  Hammy then sprints to the other end and back.  “It never ends that way, too.”  I was reminded of the apes and the astronauts who curiously stand before the Monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” 

Verne, a thoughtful turtle, decides to be the brave one of the pack.  He ventures passed the hedge and notices a neighborhood.  There are houses, people, kids playing in the streets, cars, and even sprinklers.  After being “shell-shocked”, he returns to his friends and tries to explain what he witnessed on the other side of the vast bush.  RJ drops in on Verne and the rest of the gang and sees an opportunity to recover Vincent’s food stock quicker, with their help.  RJ explains that the world beyond the hedge is, “the gateway to the good life.”  He convinces them to not be afraid.  When they ask him just how much food is available over the hedge, he replies enthusiastically: “Loads of food, heaps of food, food out the wazoo.” 

Compared to “Finding Nemo” or “The Incredibles”, “Over the Hedge” isn’t ground-breaking and it doesn’t pretend to be.  Nevertheless, we sense throughout every sequence, the dialogue, the colors, and the absurdity, a group of filmmakers and writers who worked together in harmony. I applaud them for taking such a simple story and transforming it into an agreeable movie with characters that make us giggle and with a visual style that is often gratifying to the eye.

After watching a number of computer-generated animation films, I have come to realize that they cannot be entirely endearing if they do not: a) have a good story or, for that matter, a story, b) cute comical characters that we don’t mind spending 90 or more minutes with, c) great detail, and d) the right voices for each character.  “Over the Hedge” contains all of above.  There is even William Shatner who lends his voice to a possum who loves to play dead and there is a scene where he quotes “Citizen Kane.”  There is also the evil exterminator, “The Verminator” (voiced by Thomas Hayden Church), who vows to imprison Verne and company.  Then, there is RJ who explains how humans drive the food, wear the food, and worship the food.  Oh, and even what they take when they have too much food.  It is extraordinary.

 

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