A few years ago, The Simpsons did a brilliant parody of Dreamworks animated films. It was "Cards," a CGI fest about playing cards voiced by the most obvious celebrities you could find. Jack Nicholson as the Jack, Queen Latifah as the Queen. They seem to have embraced the star powered cartoon typecast because Over the Hedge just has everyone playing their personas. It might work within a more clever script, but here it just feels desperate.
Over the Hedge Review
R.J. the raccoon (Bruce Willis) gets caught stealing a bear (Nick Nolte)’s winter stash, and he only has a week to pay his debt. This already feels like the kind of bad guy challenge Willis usually has to deal with in his action movies. So he meets a gang of woodland furry creatures led by Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling) who’ve just had a suburb developed around them. By teaching them how to raid the middle class leftovers, R.J. gets the crew to build up the stash, not telling them his true motivations.
So, Shandling plays a whining neurotic. William Shatner plays a hammy overacting possum. Avril Lavigne is a hip teenager. Wanda Sykes plays a wisecracking skunk. Willis is the charming troublemaker. Only Steve Carell defies his persona by playing a hyperactive squirrel, but that’s such a ripoff of Ice Age it’s even worse.
The concept of forest animals out of their element in suburbia is funny, and the idea of them benefiting by humans’ overconsumption could be profound, but Over the Hedge seems happy to wallow in cheap sight gags and occasional one-liners.
Over the Hedge- Bruce Willis
So we see a John Tesh CD with a 10 cent garage sale sticker on it. The animals catch a segment of Dr. Phil on a TV. Those are cute but there aren’t as many as your average episode of The Simpsons and there’s no satirical level like South Park. It’s just that we have a lot of food and the animals try to get it.
There’s hyperactive physical comedy for the ADD sect but what’s the joke? Animals suffer mishaps trying to get our food.
There’s just no story to get into. It’s the smart worrier versus the careless fun guy, but all they do is collect food until they reach their goal. Then they wrap it up with a bad guy confrontation and a moral. Maybe I’m expecting too much from a cartoon, but any other movie would have to have a strong narrative thread so why not this one?
I don’t think they missed any gag of suburbia. They got the exterminator, all the junk food and house pets. Maybe the concept just wasn’t funny enough to mine for a whole movie. But considering they do a comic strip of this every week, there must be something there if the right person can find it.