Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Here’s what I don’t get.  Well, I don’t get a lot of things, but in the scope of this article, here’s what I don’t get in particular.  Why do these Hollywood studios unload huge amounts of jack on big name voice talent for these CG movies?  Let’s take DreamWorks ‘Over the Hedge’ for example, which is a very movie good by the way.  So they pay x amount of dollars to Bruce Willis and Gary Shandling to headline a CG movie, when quite honestly, neither of their voices are that distinctive.  The real reason is that Hollywood is hooked on star power, but I don’t think ‘stars’ are necessary in this particular genre.  I took my ten-year-old son to the screening and he thoroughly enjoyed the film.  After it was over I asked him ‘How do you think Bruce Willis did?’  Of course, he was like, ‘Who?’  After I informed him that he was RJ the raccoon, he gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up.  He was even more befuddled as to who Gary Shandling (Verne the Turtle) was and we won’t even mention his knowledge of Nick Nolte as Vincent the Bear.  My point is, kids aren’t infected with the ‘Star’ disease yet, and that’s whom these movies are for, right? 

To defend ‘Over the Hedge’ a bit, they did have a couple of stars that are distinctive and they took great advantage of.  William Shatner in the role Ozzie the Opossum was hilarious as the over dramatic, over acting, ever dying rodent.  Over the years, people have always made fun of Mr. Shatner and his particular acting style, but No One can make fun of Bill the way Bill makes fun of Bill.  Also, Wanda Sykes high pitched shrill delivery as the Stella the Skunk was definitely something that only the fabulous Wanda Sykes could have pulled off.

Anyway as the story goes, the rather scurrilous RJ was busted attempting to steal the stolen goodies of a hibernating, and very angry Vincent.  RJ convinces Vincent that he can get all of the stuff back, so the hostile bear gives RJ a one-week reprieve, or he gets eaten.  RJ has no idea how he’s going retrieve all this stuff but to his good

fortune, he stumbles upon a group of animals emerging from hibernation led by the overly cautious Vern (I didn’t know turtles even hibernated, quite honestly).  Vern’s crew has learned that their precious woods have been encroached upon by urban sprawl, with only a huge hedge separating them from the ‘burbs.  RJ hips them that’s not so bad as humans have access to huge amounts of food.  All humans do is consume he informs them, and once RJ gives them a taste of a Dorito in a particularly funny scene, they are addicted.  This is why we don’t let animals eat ‘people’ food, folks.  So in a series of mis-adventures, the animals attempt to forage for the upcoming winter while battling insensitive humans, a violent pest control employee, overly playful rottweiler puppies, and not to mention RJ’s hidden agenda.  The animals in the truncated forest show RJ that having a family to rely on is great thing, which leaves RJ with the choice of saving his own life, or betraying those who befriended him and placed their faith in him.  I wonder which choice will he make?

In a spate of disappointing animated features, please step forward ‘Ice Age 2’ and ‘The Wild’, ‘Over the Hedge’ is simply wonderful.  It’s very funny, very clever and has a good heart to it.  I had written that ‘Ice Age 2’ was the best looking CG animated film I had seen to date, now that crown belongs to ‘Over the Hedge’.  With the exception of the animated characters everything just looks flat out amazingly ‘real’.  And I’m sure they could make the animals look real too, but a real talking squirrel would be just look way to freaky.  (Note:  I’ve just seen Pixar’s ‘Cars’ and it looks even better than this, but I can’t post a review for a couple of weeks.  But an aside, it’s fantastic).  ‘Over the Hedge’ even has a social message, decrying the aggressive expansion of urban sprawl, attacking the gluttony of junk food, and lamenting the huge waste of the SUV.  As the animals gaze upon a huge SUV behemoth for the first time, Hammy the Squirrel (Steve Carrel) asks how many humans does it carry?’  RJ replies, ‘usually, one.’  However when DreamWorks ties their film with Wal-Mart and Wendy’s as corporate sponsors, those messages become next to meaningless, but it doesn’t make the movie any less enjoyable. 

So parents, don't fret too much as your kids drag you to ‘Over the Hedge’ as it’s a movie you will probably enjoy as well.  Then after the movie, jump in your Ford Excursion, run out to Wendy’s and Biggie size a Triple Value meal, stop by Wal-Mart and grab some cheaply made foreign goods then retreat to your suburban tract home.  Life in America.  Gotta love it!


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