A scheming raccoon fools a mismatched family of forest creatures into helping him repay a debt of food, by invading the new suburban sprawl that popped up while they were hibernating...and learns a lesson about family himself.
RJ, a raccoon who needs food, accidentally takes food from a hungry bear named Vincent and he wants his food to be found in exactly the same place in a week. He finally finds that an animal family, with a tortoise named Verne as their leader, could help him restore the food from the suburbia, the gateway to the good life. But little does RJ know, there is a woman who has recently hired an exterminator to try to hunt them down.
A fun movie that thoroughly demolished my low expectations
Let me say up front, I had low expectations going into the film. Although I like animation a lot, I wasn't too impressed with previous Dreamworks attempts. I tend to regard cutesy previews with suspicion, and was mostly just going along to have a potentially positive movie-going experience with my family. Things got a little worse when we arrived at the theatre, and both the ticket-tearing guy (if cinemas have a technical name for that role, I don't know what it is) and some poor sap from the commissary tried to pressure-sell the "fresh" soda and popcorn. We had to go out of our way to avoid an extra ad-hoc kiosk the food vendors established smack in the middle of the lobby. I hope that doesn't become standard practice. The twenty-odd minutes of previews were similarly underwhelming, and I was starting to get a little nervous -- is it going to be one of those days I'll want to forget? Then, at long last, Over the Hedge starts. Now I'm not an avid follower of the comic, partly because I don't get to read newspapers very often. The Over the Hedge strip is kind of a latecoming competitor to affections reserved for the beloved Bloom County of my childhood, so I'm not exactly salivating at the potential content. However, I gotta say, I was blown away from the start.
Over the Hedge is a neat movie. Granted, there are points where plot development is pure formula, and some of the dialog seems forced or weakly delivered, but these are minor snits. I was laughing out loud, along with most of the audience, which was well distributed agewise. I won't offer any spoilers, but I have to hand it to the screenwriters for seamlessly integrating action-based slapstick with some very cunning dialog, dialog that flies fast and furious enough that you'd better keep both ears wide open.
Messagewise, there are a few worth noting. I have not seen such a cutting indictment of suburbia since Edward Scissorhands. Some audiences may find the humor cuts a bit too close to home -- literally. Human eating habits are intensely scrutinized, for obvious reasons. Vanity and self-serving hubris are duly repudiated. Plenty of clever asides will appeal to a wholesome sort of cultural nostalgia, without ever seeming derivative or repetitive. There are both heartwarming and chilling references to the importance of family, especially a family under external pressures from a society that they do not understand, a culture that considers them vermin. But the messages aren't overplayed, and mesh well with the rest of this utterly hilarious movie.
There's more, of course, but the bottom line is entertainment, and this movie did not disappoint. Even the extended slapstick, which I seldom enjoy in movies, was so outrageous and excessive that it punched through to my funny bone and had me slapping my knee along with my family. Oh yeah, my family -- they liked the movie too, they liked it a lot. Over the Hedge is one of those solid films to which parents can bring children and everyone has an unreserved good time. That puts it in some pretty esteemed company -- right up there with Toy Story, Finding Nemo, A Bug's Life, et al. Highly enjoyable, highly recommended, 8/10.
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