Thursday, February 15, 2007

Over the Hedge (2006)

Animated; Starring the voices of Bruce Willis and Garry Shandling

Over the Hedge is an entertaining animated children’s movie. It features a talented ensemble of actors who bring the story to life. Bruce Willis is a wily raccoon whose love of food gets him into trouble with a nasty, selfish bear (Nick Nolte). Willis destroys Nolte’s food stash, and now has to go out and steal all the food (and other items) needed to replace it.

On the snoop for food, Willis runs into a group of forest animals just coming out a hibernation. They consist of a hyperactive squirrel, a cautious turtle (Garry Shandling), a skunk, a family of porcupines, and a family of possums. There’s some of the flavor of Ice Age, with this unlikely group of animals considering itself a family; they share an old hollow log for their hibernation, and gather food together to prepare for their annual rest.

The animals face a strange new world. While they were sleeping, their forest was transformed. A hedge now surrounds their forest world; an alien landscape awaits them on the other side of this mysterious new precisely manicured object: suburbia. A luxury housing development of uniform mansions now dominates the area that used to be part of the animal’s forest. Willis sees all the food the humans have, and immediately covets it in order to pay off the bear threatening his life. The other animals are (justifiably) nervous about invading this mysterious world.

But Willis uses all his charm to trick the herd into helping his food gathering. There are some entertaining moments as the animals overcome challenges like sprinklers, guard cats, and cars.

Finally, one of the suburban dwellers, the nasty president of the homeowner’s association (Allison Janney), calls in an exterminator (Dwayne the Verminator, amusingly played by Thomas Haden Church) to “terminate with prejudice” all the animals that have invaded her neat manicured world. Willis and the other animals have to use all their tricks and all their skills to survive.

Along the way Willis faces a choice between selfish hedonism and selfless charity. Since this is a children’s film, his choice can be reliably predicted.

This film isn’t the greatest of the animated films released in recent months; I’d give that honor to Ice Age: The Meltdown, which was visually more stunning. But Over the Edge entertains, and has some fun and imaginative action sequences, and some entertaining character interactions. I’d recommend this film for children up through twelve or so.

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