288 – Over the Hedge

Based on the popular comic strip by Michael Fry, Over the Hedge is sweet, innocent fun with just enough wry humor and chicanery to keep adults amused. I wasn’t a fan of the bland musical interludes, but the voice characterizations were dead on, and the storyline was charming.

The story begins with a battle: a raccoon, named RJ (Bruce Willis), versus a tenacious vending machine. We can all relate to RJ’s anguish when the snack just won’t come out of the machine, no matter what method he tries. Soon he’s bounding up a hill to ransack the cave of a hibernating bear (voiced by Nick Nolte). Who, of course wakes up (early) as RJ is making his escape. Long story short, the bear’s wagon of food winds up being decimated by a tractor-trailer in the highway. As a result, Vincent the Bear tells RJ that when he (Vincent) wakes up from hibernation in two weeks’ time, RJ had better have returned ALL of the food, plus the wagon and a cooler – or else.

Next, a heterogeneous group of woodland creatures wakes up in a hollowed log. Led by the organized Verne the Turtle (Gary Shandling), the various critters must now assemble enough food to last them through the next winter as well. Ah, but then they discover The Hedge. It seems that during their long slumber, their beloved forest has been encroached by Suburbia. Gasp!

Luckily, new friend RJ is there to explain it all to them and to tell them of his plan to replenish their food supply – raid the houses over the hedge, of course!

There are a couple of themes here to teach the kidlets: trust and friendship. As a loner raccoon, RJ has no friends and no one to trust, so he tries to bamboozle the other animals into scrounging up enough food for him to pay off Vincent the Bear. Meanwhile, Verne (who’s the smartest of his bunch and the most suspicious) doesn’t really trust RJ and thinks his plan will wind up getting some or more of them killed.

But this is a cartoon, after all, so wacky hijinks surely win out over maudlin Lessons Learned, although, as with the best cartoon, your younger set will surely take away good, positive themes. Well, that and some great physical comedy, including a scene in which RJ and Verne wind up in an airborne child’s wagon.

The movie’s voices are¬†amusingly cast; in addition to Willis, Nolte, and Shandling, we hear from Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, and Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, who are wonderful as porcupine spouses.

Even the brief, listless musical numbers won’t turn off many people, as the movie manages to bring forth the funny while remaining true to the spirit of its predecessor comic strip.

***

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