Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Over the Hedge

Bruce asked the tickettaker how long the movie was as we entered the theatre. "90 minutes," Bruce reported. "That long?" I said. "My God. There must be a plot."

And so there was. Scheming raccoon R.J. (voiced by Bruce Willis) has to pay back the bear (Nick Nolte's voice) all the food he stole (and lost) while the bear was hibernating or be killed. He discovers a "family" of gatherers in the forest just waking up from hibernation, and figures he can make good use of their ignorance to help him grab the loot from nearby suburbia within the one-week time limit. Along the way he learns the lessons about what family is really about.

I must admit that in the first ten minutes of the film, while R.J. is deftly stealing food from the bear, I was so captured and awed by the animation that I just stared at the screen, my mouth open. The raccoon's fur is free flowing. His eyebrows move. His mouth moves in perfect concert with Willis' voice. While I began to relax and enjoy the shenanigans of this gang, I still found myself missing dialogue because I was admiring the animation.

There are more things to admire about Hedge. There are little homages to movies throughout. I'm sure I missed a few, but I howled when the more obvious ones came out, like the references to A Streetcar Named Desire or Citizen Kane.

The characters themselves are funny -- each has a little quirk, sometimes just in the subtlety of voicing, that makes each character memorable. The "casting," if you can call matching character to voices, is spot on. Of particular note is Thomas Haden Church, a riot as the pest control guy, Garry Shandling as the meek turtle who heads up the group, Steve Carell as the caffeine-hyped squirrel Hammy -- and, actually, there are too many to note. They're all perfect, and perfectly funny.

And the wry narration describing Suburbia is also hilarious, and the action backs up that assertion.

I'm not quite sure why the film is rated PG. Well, there is one sly joke about nuts, but it's a joke that will most likely fly over the head of most kids who see this film. And then there's that cork....

The film is a joke-a-minute, and even when you don't think there's anything happening in the frame, you're wrong. Kids can enjoy this movie when they look at the cute animals saying cute things, jaded teenagers will love the movie as well, and adults will see the different levels of satire. At any level, it's a lot of fun.

Thumb's up.


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