Release Date: April 29, 2006
What do you get when you throw a hyperactive squirrel, an overly conservative turtle, and a shifty raccoon with an agenda into a film together and add a little bit of adult wit to an otherwise fluffy children’s flick? If you guessed that you get Dreamworks’ latest animated release Over the Hedge, then you are the winner. Your prize is the privilege of reading this review… Gotcha!
In the great big world of Movie Marketing, this type of film is a derivative of a simple equation: you take a few well known actors (Bruce Willis, Gary Shandling, Steve Carell), mix them with some recognizable and likable voices from other slightly less popular actors/musicians who can’t get parts other than voice-overs (Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, Eugene Levy, and Avril Lavigne), add a cute story for the kids and WHAM!, you have a film that can easily bust out $100 million at the box office. We have seen it all before, the likes of Shrek, Ice Age, and most recently the subtly successful Hoodwinked. These movies are fun for kids, well animated, and include enough subtle sarcasm to keep any adult mildly entertained. But some rise above the level of “mild” entertainment and become something much more…
Such is the case with the story of a hibernating family of animals who awakes to find that their home-sweet-forest has being transformed into a concrete jungle of suburbia almost overnight. Led by the wise, but extremely mild mannered turtle Verne, voiced by Gary Shandling, this group of foragers have long been comfortable in their routine of gathering food for winter. That is until the day that RJ, the raccoon with the hidden agenda voiced by Bruce Willis, comes wandering into their lives with a plan to steal food from the humans and ultimately relieve himself of a very large debt owed to a very large and vicious bear, voiced by Nick Nolte (Nick Nolte?! He is still alive?) And of course, from there they get into all kinds of trouble, find comic relief and ultimately come to a great moral lesson through conflict… Get the point? Good.
Now you may be saying to yourself as you sit down to decide whether to see this film or see The Da Vinci Code for the third time, “Haven’t I seen this story before?” The answer is most likely a yes, as the story is not incredibly unique. But never fear, for this film has so much more to offer than a story. The dynamic on screen between Verne and RJ is absolutely hysterical, due to the unseen chemistry between Shandling and Willis. They continually battle back and forth with a whirlwind of sarcastic disdain that ads a uniquely adult feel to the film, but they keep it clean enough so that the kids can laugh too. And on top of that, the other characters in the film are delightfully endearing and fun to watch. I found myself laughing out loud to the point where I was embarrassing the friends whom I had dragged along with me to the theater.
It is easy to say that there are bigger, more mature, and incredibly more controversial films out in theaters this week, with Da Vinci and X-Men: The Last Stand as two easy examples. With upcoming summer blockbusters like Superman Returns and The Break-Up poised to hog the spotlight, a family gem like this could easily get overlooked by anyone who isn’t toting around the American standard 2.5 children. And while I cannot say that Over the Hedge is going to be more spectacular than X-Men or more interesting than Da Vinci, I can absolutely guarantee that it is the most fun you will have at the movies all summer!
The Upside: Absolutely hilarious! Adventure, cute and cuddly animals, and some wit make for a wonderful experience!
The Downside: This film is destined to get buried beneath a mountain of Summer Movie powerhouses.
On the Side: Sean Yazbeck (BBQ Barry) and Lee Bienstock (Lunch Table Larry) appeared in the film as a reward for winning their assigned task on the NBC TV series “The Apprentice.”