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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20%
Worth A Look47.78%
Average: 20%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap: 1.11%

7 reviews, 48 user ratings

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Over the Hedge
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick--or "Ice Age 2"
4 stars

In both senses of the word, the multiplexes have been lousy with animated films over the last few months–lousy in the sense that there have been a large number of them released (since the beginning of the year, there has been at least one such film per month) as well as lousy in the sense that they haven’t been very good–audiences may have gone to see weak offerings like “Hoodwinked” or “Chicken Little” in droves but that says less about their intrinsic qualities and more about the constant demand for films, no matter how lackluster, that parents can plop their kids in front of for 90 minutes or so. The latest entry in the animation sweepstakes is “Over the Hedge” and while even the most indulgent of viewers are unlikely to claim it as a masterpiece along the lines of “Wallace and Gromit” or the Pixar films, it is bright and funny enough for the kids to enjoy, contains just enough wit to keep older audiences in their seats and it is considerably more entertaining than the sorry likes of “Doogal” or “The Wild.”

Based on a comic strip of which I am unfamiliar (having largely given up on the format, with the exception of “Doonesbury” and “The Boondocks,” since “Bloom Country” and “Dondi” shuffled off this mortal coil), the film centers on a mismatched group of animal pals voiced by the requisite celebrity cast. The leader is Verne (Garry Shandling), a cautious and neurotic turtle and the others include hyperactive squirrel Hammy (Steve Carell), wise-cracking skunk Stella (Wanda Sykes), a porcupine clan led by Lou and Penny (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) and the father-daughter possum pairing of Ozzie and Heather (William Shatner and Avril Lavigne–apparently they must be Canadian possum). As the film opens, their hibernation has come to an end and Verne is already imploring them to begin foraging for food to store away for next winter. They quickly discover that may be trickier than usual–during the winter, a subdivision has been built around them and the woods where they once gathered nuts and berries have been replaced with grossly overscaled homes, lawn gnomes and a block president (Allison Janney) who seems to take any suggestion of nature as a personal insult that is to be dealt with in the harshest manner possible. After one dismal excursion beyond the enormous hedge that has gone up around the area, Verne and the others are dismayed–how will they survive the present–let alone next winter–when their food supply has been plowed under?

In comes a slick, fast-talking raccoon named RJ (Bruce Willis) who explains to them that the suburban sprawl is actually a blessing in disguise and beyond the hedge is an immense bounty of food that will allow them to stock up a year’s worth of supplies in less than a week. Verne is, of course, mistrustful of this stranger but once RJ introduces the others to the joys of nacho chips and soda pop, they are eager to follow his lead and quickly amass a huge amount of food through various clever means–Hammy scares a group of Girl Scouts out of their cookies by pretending to be rabid and Ozzie distracts some picnickers by literally playing possum in the kind of fake death scene that could only be done by William Shatner himself. What the gang doesn’t realize is that RJ does have an ulterior motive to his seemingly selfless aid–he inadvertently destroyed the provisions belonging to ferocious bear Vincent (Nick Nolte) and he plans on stealing what the group has collected in order to save his own skin. Before that can happen, Verne inadvertently destroys the food while trying to return it and the group has to try to steal it all back in one night while avoiding both Vincent and an equally lethal critter killer who dubs himself “the Verminator” (Thomas Haden Church).

All of this develops along the most predictable lines imaginable–even the youngest viewers probably won’t be surprised to discover that the film doesn’t end with RJ being skinned by a bear and the others slowly starving to death as their homes are paved over to make way for another Wal-Mart. When things start to lag, which is often, the filmmakers try to perk things up by throwing in one extraneous action scene after another in which the characters are slammed around or shot into the air for one reason or another–they may be sort of neat on a technical level but they seem to exist only to provide inspiration for the inevitable video game adaptation. Another problem is that while the actors have been typecast well enough–Willis is the slick hipster, Shandling is wildly neurotic, Sykes is brash and bawdy and Nolte is the kind of creature that would tear your head off for taking his goodies–they don’t really bring anything fresh to the table either. Instead of creating a strong script and then finding the right actors to pull it off (as was done with “The Incredibles”), the filmmakers seem to have cast the stars first and then just assumed that their personalities would cover up the relative lack of invention.

These are the same problems that have plagued most of the recent animated films but “Over the Hedge” manages to rise above them simply because it has some bits that are genuinely funny. Many of them come from the Verminator character, a man whose elaborate weaponry is outdone only by his equally florid speaking manner–I like how, after being temporarily fooled by a flamingo lawn ornament, he lashes out with “Curse you, plastic moldsman!” (Thomas Haden Church delivers these lines with such gleeful portentousness that he could easily take over any voice-over work that Patrick Warburton is too busy to tackle.) I also like the character of Tiger (Omid Djalili), a decidedly Germanic housecat who finds himself falling for the disguised Stella–imagine “The Night Porter” as recast with the characters from “Gay Puree.” There are other funny moments throughout, though I suspect that what was clearly designed to be one of the highlights–the hyperactive Hammy saving the day after ingesting caffeine for the first time–might have come off better if the same basic joke hadn’t already been seen a few months ago in “Hoodwinked.”

Look, I’m not going to try and convince you that “Over the Hedge” is a brilliant treasure that will enchant young and old alike–even at its best, it never comes close to equaling the heart, humor and solid storytelling of even the weakest Pixar efforts. However, it has its heart in the right place, it has a reasonable amount of funny moments and viewers over the age of 12 won’t feel as completely alienated while watching it as they were during “Ice Age 2" or “Curious George.” In fact, I can even see myself checking the film out again when it makes its way to DVD–especially if the bonus features includes both the footage of Steve Carell recording his lines and William Shatner and Avril Lavigne encountering each other for the first time. If you do go, however, be sure to stay for the end credits–the discussion of “The Wrath of Khan” alone is pretty much worth the price of admission by itself.

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originally posted: 05/19/06 14:21:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell entertaing i liked it 4 stars
5/29/09 ahh amazing 5 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. adorable and funny :] 4 stars
4/01/08 yamin 22 yrs old and i love this movie... but u gotta catch the satire 5 stars
8/04/07 Reza Maddahi magnificent and friutfull movie for all ages 4 stars
7/18/07 amateur madman completely halairious 5 stars
6/01/07 ES I liked it 4 stars
3/21/07 man I thought it was lame 2 stars
2/09/07 Soranos Average movie, I liked the 3D animation and characters though. 3 stars
2/08/07 Matt Works for kids and ttheir parents alike. Hammy the squirrel is a classic! 4 stars
1/09/07 David Cohen 7 minute short dragged out to 90, Shandling is particualrly miscast 3 stars
1/07/07 Quicksilver cute animals, good actors, but traditional Disney cheesiness smothers these good points. 3 stars
1/03/07 anthony david loved the show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thought it was HILARIOUS 5 stars
12/29/06 Jennifer Raven a total scream! too funny 5 stars
12/27/06 Jim Stephens It should hav been drawn instead of "rendered" - the characters border on ugly. 2 stars
12/13/06 Natalie i loved this so much... of course, hammy's my favourite character... 5 stars
12/04/06 Hammy101 I loved hammy- he was halerious! i loved it as much as i did with "Madagaskar" and "TheWild 5 stars
12/04/06 Dana Lundin I loved Hammy, it was hilarious 4 stars
11/27/06 sirina it was fun for little kids 2 stars
11/15/06 Mark much funnier than gifven credit for. several laugh-out-loud moments 4 stars
11/06/06 Senator Claghorn This from the guy who thought Cars was "awe inspiring?" 4 stars
11/01/06 Rjlover i loved it. someone who hated it, has no sense of humor. I wuv hammy and rj! 5 stars
11/01/06 matthew henry I'm in college and I still loved it. Scathing social critique combined with funny story 4 stars
10/23/06 antne Absolutely rocks, Dave Corneliuis is a sour puss,doesn't have a funny bone in his body. 5 stars
10/19/06 Charles Tatum Hilarious, the best animated film of 2006 5 stars
10/16/06 Senoa This was guite good, good voice acting. Hammy on caffeine must be seen to believe! 4 stars
9/07/06 Stephanie Throckmorton Despite caricaturing humans as monsters, one of the more entertaining films of the year. 4 stars
8/07/06 Del It was cute, but I actually was happy when it was finally over 3 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant Surprisingly good. Funny, inventive, and a kick-ass Ben Folds soundtrack. Better than most. 4 stars
8/06/06 doesn't matter hated it, hated it, hated it 1 stars
7/15/06 rusty builds slowly but by the end I was laughing hard 4 stars
7/01/06 Gerry Irons Best Non-Pixar CGI Film Yet- Still Aims Low- Very entertaining but sadly simple trite story 3 stars
6/30/06 Dave Webber Great fun flick - totally loved Bruce Willisin this! 5 stars
6/19/06 ken thackrey its awsome 5 stars
6/18/06 Violet not funny 2 stars
6/17/06 nicolecrom2678 AWESOME FUNNY!! 5 stars
6/07/06 Quigley not so much funy as it was entertaining. Steve Carell was absolutely awesome as Hammy 4 stars
6/06/06 James Awesome animation & voice acting; anyone who says it sucks has their head up their ass 5 stars
6/05/06 Jon The Best Since Shreck 2 D00d 5 stars
5/28/06 your worst goddamn nightmare Such a funny little movie... I was so pleasantly surprised! 4 stars
5/23/06 Mase Kind of a patchwork of current animated family films. Carrel and Sykes shine brightly 4 stars
5/23/06 Melina Awesome movie! Thoughtful, funny and perfect for everybody! 5 stars
5/22/06 KingNeutron ROTFLMAO - this one is definitely worth the buy. 4 stars
5/22/06 Anin Azdnok I think this was the best movie ever! 5 stars
5/20/06 Pokejedservo Decent-at-best soundtrack mars an otherwise above above par film 4 stars
5/20/06 San Lamar funny film 5 stars
5/19/06 Staci My kids enjoyed it so it's good enough for me. 4 stars
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  19-May-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 17-Oct-2006



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