Over the Hedge (2006)

(Release Date: May 19, 2006)
(Premiere Date: April 29, 2006 [Indianapolis International Film Festival])

 I want something to do with everything that's OVER THAT HEDGE! I want something to do with everything that's OVER THAT HEDGE! I want something to do with everything that's OVER THAT HEDGE! I want something to do with everything that's OVER THAT HEDGE!

Fuzzy Critters, Fuming Families, Funky Felines and FOOD!

J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

Do you know how many Computer Animated feature films are being released this year? At last count... Nineteen. That's just about the total number that have been produced since the beginning. This year alone, man! And that's just the Theatrical flicks. Throw in the straight to video and you could swim in the deluge of CGI Films like Scrooge McDuck in his cash pool. Of course this means that it's virtually a cliché to state that the animation in these movies is "Stunning". As these Computer Animated stories have officially overtaken the hand-drawn movies at the multiplex, we can pretty much accept that these films are going to look great. But will they be great?

Over the Hedge... Fetch!

Depends on the movie. In the case of Over the Hedge, I'm surprised to say... pretty much, yeah, it's great. In fact, it's better than it has any right to be. Oh, it's not perfect, and it probably won't be replacing The Lion King as your favorite framed poster, but it's a solid comedy that works its humorous magic to great effect. And the animation... well, let's just say it... it doesn't hurt.

The story is fun and more than meets the eyeballs. A surrogate family of forest critters wakes up after a nice long hibernation with rested minds and empty bellies. You've got your Turtle-Boy leader, Verne (Garry Shandling), neurotic but effective. Then there's the jittery comic foil to the rest of the comic foils, Hammy the Squirrel (Steve Carrell), who gives Tweek, Jay Garrick and Jessie Quick all a run for their money. Good old Stella the Skunk (Wanda Sykes)... a nice kid, but man, she stinks! Let's not forget our Possum family, Ozzie (William Shatner at his most Shatnerian) and his daughter Heather (Avril Lavigne). And because the act of congress has gone through and it is officially illegal for Eugene Levy to appear in any movie without Catherine O'Hara, their voices appear here as Lou and Penny, the parents of three Porcupine children.

Naturally, the first thing in take-charge Turtle Verne's mind is gathering more food before the winter, which they set about doing real proper like... that is until they come to the end of the forest. No longer can they not see the forest for the trees, now they can't see the... anything for the great big hedge. A hedge that Hammy names "Steve". On the other side of that Hedge is something so horrible, so nightmarish, so mind-blowing that the animals may never be the same again... we're talking about a suburban land development.

Suddenly gathering food is none too easy anymore. But equally suddenly there appears the possible answer to all their problemmos... RJ the Raccoon (Bruce Willis), who knows all about suburbia and all about where suburbanites keep their food. What they don't know is that RJ is in deep debt to a psychotic bear named Vincent (Nick Nolte). If RJ doesn't come up with a wagon load of grub for our hungry hibernator, our Raccoon Amigo is seventeen types of dead. Naturally a small army of experienced hunter-gatherers like Verne's crew is just what RJ needs.

Unfortunately for him, Verne doesn't trust that Masked Critter. Even less fortunately, real-estate developing human being Gladys (Allison Janney) hates every mangy critter out there from Chimpan-a to Chimpanzee. Between her, her anal retentive kitty cat Tiger (Omid Djalili) and her newly hired MASTER EXTERMINATOR Dwayne (Thomas Haden Church), RJ, Verne and the gang are so much blended fuzzy smoothies. Ew.

The real question is whether or not RJ will do the right thing, and if so, how is he going to survive the vicious Vincent?

The animation goes beyond merely pretty here and manages to work perfectly for the characters we see here. Directors Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick successfully translate the voices of the actors (from the screenplay based on Michael Fry and T. Lewis' comic strip characters) in a way that actually FEELS like "acting". The facial expressions, movements and body language are really something to see. RJ has that special "Bruce Willis" quality to him, while managing a unique cuteness to him as well. Similarly, Ozzie's overly expressive and ridiculously melodramatic nature was just made for William Shatner, man. Self-lampooning at its best.

Unfortunately, some of the scatological humor (though sparse) feels a little tired, and obvious in its intent. Further, there is a strong tie to 2006, not to the extent that this won't be worth watching in 20 years, but there just might be a few jokes that might not stand the test of time. Lastly, just a few things don't add up, and a plot point or two fizzles like a Pepsi laced with Pixie Sticks.

But that's me, an adult, reviewing a film aimed at kids. Let me tell you, any way you slice it, Cuisinart it or Process it, Over the Hedge is still a super-hilarious, well done ride worth Four Stars out of Five. One more thing. I thought Bruce Springsteen would start writing Republican Party Anthems before Ben Folds recorded songs for a Dreamworks Animation flick... but here he is... performing the whole shebang. Must be a fan of the comic strip! I remember when my dear-old-grandad had a problem with Raccoons invading his attic and running off with his garbage. The suggestion was that the Raccoons were there first. But then again, the time that these raccoons and their buddies rocketed away with his blue beer cooler... that was priceless, gosh darn it. See ya in the next reel, Grandpa!

More reviews, just over this Hedge!
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Over the Hedge (2006) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
who is solely responsible for the content of his reviews
and for the fact that he's scary and hairy... just like that Bear-y.
Ugh, I suck with the jokes today!!!
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