Over the Hedge Review

Follow these rats and swine unto the great unknown, the song of Over the Hedge plays over and over. It is not the exact lyric, but it is close enough. Possums and skunks and squirrels may not be perceived as the best of friends, but this ill-remembered nostalgia box of light comedy would have you think so. They are desperate to survive the harsh realities of winter and to do so must rely on RJ (Bruce Willis) to guide them through neighbourhoods of fine food. Knock-off Doritos because Dreamworks couldn’t secure the license are the golden ticket for a raccoon who has usurped a bear, Vincent (Nick Nolte), and his hibernation plan.

Is it any surprise that Over the Hedge plays fast and loose with its characters? Not particularly, no. They are there for soundbites and gags that will fall on deaf ears if focused on for too long. It is why Hammy (Steve Carell) is the bundle of energy that he is. The effect is a character whose tokenism is a hyperactive nature and directors Karey Kirkpatrick and Tim Johnson know not to focus on that too much. He is reserved for the many montage moments that string together the cheap comedy and ill-thought character dynamics. The back and forth of Willis and Garry Shandling works on paper but in practice gives little more than the “trust what you already know” message a good kicking. Even then, the rehabilitation of RJ is not that convincing, even when he is haunted and plagued by the immoral actions he takes part in.

But that is too deep for a film that was released in a rut of children’s entertainment. It is only with the benefit of nostalgia and a keen inkling to look back on these animated “classics” that they can ever really be defined as such. Over the Hedge is not as smart as the Robots counterpart, nor is it better. The animation within the Kirkpatrick and Johnson collaboration is surprisingly good and stands up over a decade on. Packing the cast full of familiar faces would work if they were not representing woodland creatures with their voices. For every inspired casting and strong vocal performance from Allison Janney and Omid Djalili, some have undefined voices, their characteristics on-screen lost to the void of animation. William Shatner and Avril Lavigne is an inspiringly strange pairing, and possibly the dullest part of Over the Hedge.

Shameful it may be to see that the video game tie-in is better than the movie, Over the Hedge is a useful tool of learning how rough nostalgia can be. It is light and fluffy entertainment, but the jokes fall flat and the casting of such a grand ensemble makes little sense when their voices are not easily recognised. Shandling sounds like every other whining comedian strapped into an awkward character role, Willis’ charismatic raccoon is no real revolution and Wanda Sykes’ sassy skunk feels like a weak diatribe to the stereotypes that cocoon the sassy and confident style. It all falls into place because of how comfortable and used to it all audiences will be, but complacent Over the Hedge may be, it does not make it all that good.

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