Over the Hedge

3 out of 5

Directed by: Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick

When I first looked up ‘Over the Hedge’ on wikipedia, the first listing was for ‘a syndicated comic strip written by Michael Fry and drawn by T. Lewis’ that debuted in 1995.  I… had no idea.  That doesn’t change anything about my reception of the movie – which is a generic, anthropomorphic passing of time – but, eh, it’s sort of amusing in the “nothing’s original” state of mind.

Over the Hedge came in what could be considered the second-ish wave of CGI kids films, and fairly late into it, by which point the technology had been mostly proven (though of course there were plenty of advancements to come) and it was the de facto animation style, meaning a good chunk of things were no longer notable, rather just yer everyday kids flick, with a scamp or rogueish character, and a straight-man character, and an oddball, and a moral.

Our scamp is RJ, a raccoon (voiced by Bruce Willis in a sincerely delightfully dedicated manner); the straight man is Vern, a turtle (Garry Shandling), leader of a friendly troupe a celebrity-voiced forest dwellers which RJ leads astray; the oddball is the hyperactive squirrel, Hammy (Steve Carrell); the moral is when RJ realizes that leading innocents astray is, in digestible kid movie terms, the way to end up alone.  Some of the gags and slapstick humor are pretty good, with the requisite parent-baiting references to classic movies and whatnot, but the other requisite is to have some childish humor, and that’s here too, though in an absolutely tolerable quantity.  The best part of the flick, though, is before it takes shape: when RJ is plotting to steal the resident bear’s stash of food (voiced by a typically gruff Nick Nolte; the nighttime setting and one-upping of the antics feel fresh and Looney Tunes-ish, but once RJ loses the stash, and is then threatened by the bear with a deadline for getting it all back – cue taking advantage of the local critters, coercing them into stealing from the neighborhood – the beats the movie must hit to bring RJ around to the Good Side are as predictable as ever.  However, Over the Hedge does hold on to some of that Looney Tunes sensibility throughout, especially in its simplistic treatment of its human characters and the animal vs. animal mayhem.

Animation-wise, RJ benefits from Bruce’s lively voicing, but all of the main characters are personable.  The setting, mostly outdoors, is pretty stagnant; we’re not at the ‘lush’ stage of animation yet, so while you can see all the blades of grass and leaves and the occasional action sequences are frantic, nothing much moves if it’s not required to, and everything’s nice and bubbly.

Your mileage with the Ben Folds soundtrack will vary, but the songs are used sparingly for montage and title sequences.

Bluray notes: Some standard behind the scenes bits, the accompanying animated short with optional commentary, film commentary from directors / producers, and a slightly more in depth technical behind-the-scenes.  The latter two are probably the most worthwhile, although the technical behind-the-scenes covers most of what’s interesting – making it clear where CGI technology was at this point – with the feature length commentary occasionally discussing difficulties of shots, or pointing out single takes, but more often just talking about favorite scenes.