by Archives September 27, 2006

Over the Hedge, like most modern animated films – contains quirky characters, inventive humour, and notable computer work – all the ingredients necessary for a pleasing animation work. It will charm kids and adults alike. The 90 minutes zip right by in cuteness and laughter.

Vincent The Bear (voiced by Nick Nolte) awakens to discover that his stash of stolen food has been stolen.

He catches the thief, RJ The Raccoon (voiced by Bruce Willis), in action and tells him to return all his food “or else!”.

This opening scene sets the tone for the film as RJ explains his reason for stealing the food

“I’m just a desperate guy trying to feed his family” he says.

Vincent angrily replies in his deep voice,”You don’t have a family.”

RJ kicks back with, “I meant a family of one.”

The characters are every bit as adorable as the dialogue.

Skip to Verne, a thoughtful turtle (voiced by Gary Shandling), and his woodland friends. As spring arrives, they awaken from their long winter nap to discover that a tall green hedge has furtively cropped up through the middle of their terrain. They each wonder what it is, never having seen anything like it before.

They move cautiously toward it. Hammy (voiced by Steve Carrell), an offbeat squirrel, runs to one end of the hedge. He informs his friends that it never ends. Hammy then sprints in the other direction, and back. “It never ends that way, too” he says.

I was reminded of the apes and the astronauts who curiously stand before the Monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Verne decides to be the brave one of the pack. He ventures past the hedge and notices a neighbourhood. There are houses and people, kids playing in the streets, cars and even sprinklers. After being “shell-shocked”, he returns to his friends to explain what he witnessed on the other side of the vast bush.

RJ drops in on Verne and the rest of the gang and sees an opportunity to recover Vincent’s food stock quicker, with their help.

RJ explains the world beyond the hedge is “the gateway to the good life.” He convinces them to not be afraid. When they ask him just how much food is available over the hedge, he replies enthusiastically: “Loads of food, heaps of food, food out the wazoo!”

Compared to Finding Nemo (2003) or The Incredibles (2004), Over the Hedge isn’t ground-breaking and it doesn’t pretend to be.

Nevertheless, we sense throughout every sequence, the dialogue, the colors, the absurdity, and a group of filmmakers and writers who worked together in harmony.

I applaud them for taking such a simple story and transforming it into an agreeable movie with characters that make us giggle. The movie has a visual style that is often gratifying to the eye.

After watching a number of computer-generated animation films, I have come to realize they cannot be entirely endearing if they do not have : a) a good story or, for that matter, a story, b) cute comical characters that we don’t mind spending 90, or more, minutes with, c) great detail, and d) the right voices for each character.

Over the Hedge contains all of above. William Shatner even lends his voice to a possum who loves to play dead. In one scene he quotes Citizen Kane (1941).

There is also the evil exterminator, “The Verminator”, (voiced by Thomas Hayden Church), who vows to imprison Verne and company.

RJ then explains how humans drive the food, wear the food, and worship the food.

Oh, and then he even says what they take when they have too much food. It is extraordinary.

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