OVER THE HEDGE
****1/2 (out of 5)
May 19, 2006
Bruce Willis as RJ
Garry Shandling as VERNE
Steve Carell as HAMMY
Wanda Sykes as STELLA
William Shatner as OZZIE
Nick Nolte as VINCENT
Thomas Haden Church as DWAYNE
Directed by: Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Only ten short years ago, CGI films were almost unheard of. Now, there’s a full-fledged computer animated war in the cineplexes for our dollars. Pixar and DreamWorks have led the charge on these films. There’s plenty of competition out there this year from other studios, but these two animation houses are still the frontrunners.
Pixar has “Cars” coming out in a few weeks, but DreamWorks has drawn first blood with the new film “Over the Hedge.”
With the glut of CGI films approaching, it’s hard to say what’s going to be good or not. So, I have to admit that I was actually taken by surprise as how much I enjoyed “Over the Hedge.”
The movie is based on a comic strip about a group of woodland animals fighting suburban sprawl. During their hibernation, a housing development has been built around their land, and the animals need to find new sources of food. A loner raccoon named RJ (Bruce Willis), who is searching for a way to replace a wagonload of food he stole from a bear, finds the rag-tag group of animals and convinces them to forage in the ‘burbs.
The animals’ leader, a turtle named Verne (Garry Shandling), isn’t happy about this turn of events. However, RJ is just too doggoned charismatic. Ignorant of the fact that RJ is using them, the animals help him gather food from the trash of the humans. Of course, RJ starts to get attached to his new friends, and he realizes it’s going to be hard to just take the food and run.
Like many animated films, “Over the Hedge” sports a cast with quite a few recognizable names in it. However, few of them (with the exception of Bruce Willis) could be considered an A-lister. However, this is the film’s greatest strength. With such a large ensemble playing self-evident supporting roles, the best parts are spread out among everyone. The movie belongs to no one in particular, and it lets each character shine at the right moment.
This makes me think that the loss of Jim Carrey, who was originally cast as RJ, was not a bad thing at all. In fact, without an attention hog like Carrey in the spotlight, this fact may have actually saved the film from itself.
There are still stand-out performances, though. Steve Carell completely steals the show as the hyperactive squirrel Hammy. At first, I thought the character was a bit of a rip-off of Twitchy from this winter’s “Hoodwinked,” but Carell makes him unique, and with a different level of animation, it works perfectly in the movie. The rest of the cast is excellent, with another favorite nod going to William Shatner who plays a paranoid possum that does the best William Shatner impression I’ve ever heard.
One of the most refreshing thing to see in “Over the Hedge” is that the movie didn’t try to be more than it was. With a history of wide-sweeping CGI films like “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles” and the “Shrek” films, it’s tempting for filmmakers to go beyond the scope of their film. “Over the Hedge” settles in nicely by taking place in the suburbs and the woods. However, it’s still as big as ever with hilarious slapstick action, in jokes and humor that adults should find funnier than the kids.
“Over the Hedge” is the first great family film of 2006, and it’s a safe bet for all ages.