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DREAMWORKS HEDGES THEIR BETS with GOOD, but SAFE screen version of popular comic strip
on May 18, 2006
From TIM JOHNSON, the Director who brought you ANTZ, oh maybe I shouldn't have started that way...
...DreamWorks' animated film, "Over the Hedge," is a backyard ecological comedy outfitted with some fine, silly slapstick and clever animal characters. This one is aimed more at a younger audience than other DW efforts like "Shrek" but has plenty of entertainment value for the rest of the fam. Unlike Pixar, DreamWorks isn't pushing the envelope with their animation. DW is playing it safe here with a PC comedy that delivers an ecological message while pitching family values to the extreme. The CG animation is routine, but writer Len Blum (Pink Panther) along with Lorne Cameron, working from the popular comic strip and character animators under the supervision of directors Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick do a crackerjack job of filling the screen with lively, ingratiating creatures. The comic strip Created by Michael Fry and T Lewis, OVER the HEDGE takes a quirky view of suburban living from the perspective of the animals who lived there first. The comic strip, like the movie, stars RJ, a mischievous raccoon, and Verne, his sensitive best-buddy turtle. Together they ponder life and adapt their natural habitat to incorporate all the "unnatural" creature comforts that suburbia has to offer. Fry & Lewis have written an original screenplay for the film.
RJ (voiced perfectly by Bruce Willis, why hasn't he done this before, oh yeah the "Look Who's Talking" movies count), arrives in a woods outside a midwest town, excited about the wonders that living near humans can bring. He finds instead a community of porcupines, possums, a squirrel, skunk and chipmunks that is deathly afraid of humans, after their leader, Vern (Gary Shandling), has had a BAD EXPERIENCE with human boys. As they get closer and closer to humans, however, their comfortable lives in the woods appears to be at an end. Motivated by RJ, however, the animals slowly breech the hedge that separates them from the brand new housing development that has destroyed their food source over the winter while they were sleeping, and RJ shows them is a world where humans throw all sorts of food away in big metal canisters, ripe for the taking. By combining RJ plans and the family's foraging talents, maybe they can fill next winter's larder in time to meet the deadline imposed by grizzly bear (Nick Nolte). When the family makes it over THE HEDGE -- well, through it -- they pilfer, led by Hammy, an overcaffeinated squirrel (Steve Carell) who is fightingly similar to the Hoodwinked overcaffeinated squirrel not voiced by Steve Carell. This leads the humans to call pest control: Dwayne the Verminator (Thomas Haden Church).
This story sets in motion more than enough comic action sequences to fill the movie's 84 minutes. The final caper mimics and rivals the "Mission: Impossible" films' derring-do to hilarious results.
Character animators beautifully marry their creatures to the voice actors' individual eccentricities. Especially noteworthy are William Shatner (that's Capt. Kirk kids) uses his panache for dieing as Ozzie the possum, Wanda Sykes' slinky skunk, Carell (the Office, 40 yr Old Virgin) is always brilliant and his hyperactive Hammy is no exception , Omid Djalili's Persian housecat, SCTV alums Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as Lou & Penny.
Fans of the original comic strip as well as animation devotees will appreciate this film more than the average moviegoer, but overall OVER the HEDGE is an okay effort. Rated PG and runs under 90 mins.