OVER THE HEDGE
Shyster raccoon RJ (Bruce Willis) finds himself in trouble when attempting to steal the hibernation stores of cave-slumbering grizzly bear Vincent (Nick Nolte). The food, mostly scrounged cardboard stuff of an after school variety, is lost when a truck decimates the supply. RJ is given until the next full moon to replenish the stock or face certain toothy death. Desperate, RJ enlists the help of a band of naturalist forest folk, led by a tortoise, Verne (Garry Shandling), to go over the hedge separating the forest from a newly sprouted suburban estate. Seeing in the measured lawns and picket fences an infinitely generous supply of "Spuddies" and Soda, RJ and his newfound friends venture beyond the hedge, into the firing line of cell-phone wielding, sharp-suited, neighbourhood Tsar, Gladys (Allison Janney), and her "Verminator" lackey, Dwayne (Thomas Haden Church).
Review by Joel Meares:
Over the Hedge is a sly ride. It sizzles less with the winking nudging sentiment, currently in vogue, of lesser animated features, and instead offers its audience the family movie goods: thrills, laughs and, of course, a message. If it drops the ball on that third point, the film is so bouncily enthralling you'd have to be a critic (wink, wink) to notice. Visually witty (in every corner of every frame there's eye jokes aplenty), Over the Hedge, a mafia story executed with Greenpeace sentiment, is blast enough to smoke away its minor flaws.
From its opening sequence, an elevating frustration piece involving a vending machine, Over the Hedge has grip and pace. The animation will tickle you. Though not as ambitious as some Pixar creations, the film pops with colour and renders for its audience a world that is full and inventive. The characters are individual and burst forth with their own idiosyncrasies, no mean feat for a movie featuring half of Hollywood amongst its voice cast. Of the cast, particular kudos go to Shandling as the cautious Verne, and to Janney and Church as the representative horrid humans. With Shandling, Steve Carell, and Wanda Sykes starring, one could lament an age in which voice acting is more stand-up than characterisation, but such thoughts come only after the very funny fact of the film.
The big action sequences, with bears and cars and dogs and men, are inspired and thrilling, and there is a fun sense of exaggeration at work - shots from outer space elicit possibly the heartiest laughs. The only niggling concern I had was that in a film positing a naturalist forest lifestyle against suburbia, Pringles and cola, the forest folk rely a little too heavily on junk and junk food to prove their moral claim. Caffeine, after all, becomes indispensable to their success. However, such quibbles are minor, and one can forgive the film for hedging its bets (wink) and sitting on the hedge (nudge) of the debates it glosses, because it's too much fun. You'll be arguing over your favourite character the whole SUV ride back to the 'burbs.
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OVER THE HEDGE (G)
VOICES: Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, Nick Nolte, Thomas Haden Church, Allison Janney, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara
PRODUCER: Bonnie Arnold
DIRECTOR: Tim Johnson, Karey Kirkpatrick
SCRIPT: Len Blum, Lorne Cameron, David Hoselton, Karey Kirkpatrick
MUSIC: Rupert Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kathy Altieri
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 22, 2006