movie film review | chris tookey

Over the Hedge

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  Over the Hedge Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
5.88 /10
Voiced by:, RJ the raccoon: Bruce Willis
Full Cast >

Directed by: Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick
Written by: Len Blum, Lorne Cameron, David Hoselton and Karey Kirkpatrick, based on a comic strip by Michael Fry and T. Lewis

Released: 2006
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 87

Enjoyably trashy family entertainment.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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We’ve had a run of indifferent animated pictures recently, all billed as being “for all the family”, but really appealing only to the most charitable or undemanding of children. Over the Hedge, by the team that created Antz, isn’t quite on the top tier of family entertainment – and here I mean Wallace and Gromit, the Toy Story movies, and The Incredibles – but it is enjoyable, and deserves every one of its four stars. There’s a fine array of stars voicing its smartly delineated characters, led by RJ the Raccoon (well voiced by Bruce Willis), an amoral loner and thief. He breaks into a cave to steal food and wakes up a hibernating bear (gruffly played by the ursine Nick Nolte). RJ has a choice. Either he replaces the food he has involuntarily destroyed, or he will be sleeping with the fishes. Shocked and definitely still hungry, RJ comes upon an assortment of wildlife waking up after a winter’s sleep to discover that, while they were asleep, their natural habitat has been transformed into suburbia. At this point, I can imagine property developers snorting that they’ve never found builders able to work that fast. Leader of the group is a cautious, conservative tortoise (Garry Shandling). There’s a very bourgeois family of porcupines, headed by the reliably excellent team of Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy (most familiar from mockumentaries such as Best in Show), a hyperactive squirrel (Steve Carell, from The Forty Year-Old Virgin), a skunk with self-esteem problems (Wanda Sykes), and dysfunctional father and daughter opossums (William Shatner and Avril Lavigne). RJ weans the creatures away from nuts and berries and on to junk food (depressingly, they claim to like it, although adults watching may wonder if they haven’t all cut a lucrative product placement deal) Then he educates them into the bewildering ways of humans – cue a sequence which strays commendably close to social satire, as we humans are seen through raccoon eyes as greedy, wasteful materialists whose only use is as providers of garbage. Sadly, this early promise is not sustained. The plot takes off into a multitude of only moderately inventive scrapes and chases. RJ and co attempt to steal food from their human neighbours, led by the ghastly chairman of the Neighbourhood Homeowners’ Association (Alison Janney of The West Wing) and the sinister, animal-hating Verminator (Thomas Haden Church, the slob from Sideways). Along the way, life lessons are learnt, as RJ feels remorse at tricking the other animals into doing his dirty work, and they decide whether to accept him, faults and all, into their family. The film is far from perfect. The sharpness of the early scenes creates expectations that aren’t fulfilled, and the rules of the animals’ universe aren’t always comprehensible (since when have squirrels been able to make time stand still?). But it would be wrong to be curmudgeonly. There are plenty of sight-gags, and William Shatner is surprisingly funny as the father opossum who isn’t content merely to play dead. He milks each moment of danger to play as many theatrical death scenes as he can, much to the embarrassment of his disaffected teenage daughter
(singer Avril Lavigne is fine, too)

Over the Hedge is no classic, but it’s much better than recent catchpenny excursions into animation, such as Madagascar or Shark Tale; and - whatever your age - it will give you your money’s worth.

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