Thomas Haden Church
Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick
Ever since the release of Shrek in 2001, the mighty Pixar havebeen battling with Dreamworks for control of the animated movie market – the financial implications of which should not be underestimated.
Disney, who have been at loggerheads with Pixar for most of the period, have been trailing a poor third – something which the underachieving The Wild did nothing to change. $7.4 billion might change something though – Disney shelled out that much to buy Pixar in May. Will the two united animating behemoths steamroller the entire market – or can Over the Hedge keep Dreamworks in the race?
RJ (Bruce Willis) is a scavenging raccoon who has just made a massiveerror. On a particularly greedy day he tries to steal all of Vincent’s (NickNolte) food – Vincent beaing the local grizzly bear. He fails miserably, of course, and all of the food is destroyed. Vincent gives him an ultimatum: he must get all of it backbefore the moon becomes whole, or he’ll be eating him instead. RJ managesto find the perfect team – a group of animals just out of hibernation whodiscover their surroundings have been turned into a new suburban development. RJdecides he’ll teach them about their new world and get what he needs inreturn.
In the past ten years the quality of the cartoon has increased tenfold -not just visually but also in the writing. The bar has been raised so highby films such as Finding Nemo and Shrek that every new releaseis met with the expectation that it may top the previous best. And its underan expectation such as this that films such as Over The Hedge collapse.
What sets out a truly great animated movie from the rest is the emotionalcontent. Finding Nemo was such a rousing success because we actuallycared about the characters, despite the fact that they were merely computergenerated effects. You’ll never find yourself really caring too much aboutany of the “wacky” animals on display here although some attempts aremade.
Instead, it’s best to compare Over The Hedge to the god-awful set ofanimated films that were released before the resurgance started by ToyStory. And with that comparison, it shines. The animation is yet againflawless. It’s a wonder anyone still makes hand-drawn animation any moreand there’s a danger now that computer generated animation is the norm toforget how amazing it looks. Along with the animation, it does manage to possess astrong comic sense and an enjoyably frenetic pace.
The jokes come thick and fast and beneath the kiddy surface there aresome clever adult jokes. Firstly there is a bitter tone running through thefilm, mostly based towards the urban sprawl taking over America. One of thearch nemeses, a property developer of course, is driving and on her phone -”of course I can talk, I’m just driving”. There are also a number ofjokes referencing Citizen Kane and A Streetcar Named Desire forexample, not your norm in childrens fare.
The voice cast is also strong. Bruce Willis, Wanda Sykes and Eugene Levyall perform well, but the real standout is Steve Carell’s excitablesquirrel. It’s a knockout comic performance and he’ll definitely becomea kids favourite.
In the end, it’s not going to threaten the big boys in the genre – theplot is waferthin – but it’s one of the more enjoyable animated offerings oflate. Its Looney Tunes style comedy and barbed humour give it a broadappeal and it’ll be interesting to see if Pixar’s summer flick Cars will match it.