a critiQal film review Over the Hedge (2006)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: Verne the Turtle (Shandling) and his woodland friends awaken from their long winter's nap to discover a hedge right through the middle of their home. After a bit of convincing, newcomer RJ the Raccoon (Willis) and Verne form an unlikely friendship as they learn to co-exist with - and even exploit - this strange new world called Suburbia.

806 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 1s)
  • ...by the time hyperactive Hammy the Squirrel lays his hands on an energy drink, you'll have forgotten all about the typical "kid film" crowd around you.

Now that Dreamworks has jumped into the computer animation biz, they are producing animated films at an astonishing rate. Their latest: Over The Hedge. From the first preview, Heather was dying to go see this film, but I was a bit hesitant – not really about the film, but more about the crowd that usually accompanies “kid-friendly” films like this one.

After a little convincing (and going to see X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) with me), Heather got me to go to the movie this extended Memorial Day weekend. Despite the typical “kids film” crowd, complete with obnoxious kids and two older gentlemen who smelled like they hadn’t showered in weeks, we settled in to watch Over The Hedge on the big screen.

While at first it seems a little strange to hear Bruce Willis speaking through an animated raccoon and turtle, respectively, the viewer soon becomes accustomed to it. After all, if viewers can get used to Bruce Willis’ voice coming from a baby’s mind in Look Who’s Talking, they can get used to pretty much anything. Despite the viewer’s initial confusion putting the famous voices to the characters on screen, once this wears off, the viewer should enjoy most of what’s going on. While Bruce Willis seems to work well as RJ’s voice while he’s planning and executing different capers, the “wants to be loved” RJ that appears later seems a bit mismatched with the voice.

The other character voices in Over The Hedge seem to be much better fits. Gary Shandling, who has had years of practice playing meek, is perfectly cast as the voice of the turtle Verne. Wanda Sykes nearly steals the show with her voice as the skunk of the bunch, Stella, who’s attitude can be as potent as her stench. Avril Lavigne seems rather an odd choice to play anything, much less an opossum, but doesn’t mess things up even though she’s the newbie of the bunch. William Shatner seems a good choice as her father, Ozzie, who – just like Shatner – can be an over-actor at times, but can also play the loving dad when he needs to. Steve Carell as the voice of the hyperactive Hammy the Squirrel is a perfect fit, as the viewer will be almost able to imagine the man behind that voice acting as erratically as the squirrel on-screen.

Over The Hedge manages to catch the viewer’s attention right from the start with something everyone has experienced at least once in their lives – a chip bag stuck in a vending machine. After witnessing RJ’s attempts at getting the bag unstuck, including using a plastic crocodile-headed toy on a stick, the viewer is already relating to the trials of this character – even though he’s a raccoon. With that lead-in capturing the audience’s attention, the movie sets up the basic plot almost immediately after, enticing the viewer to keep watching to see how things work out.

While previous Dreamworks animated films, like Shrek (2001) and Shrek 2 (2004), have poked fun at Disney, Over The Hedge flips that around somewhat to poke fun at humans. In a rather funny sequence that unfortunately runs a bit long, RJ the raccoon explains how everything humans are about concerns food, from a couch potato, to a food transport (a pizza delivery boy’s moped) to a piehole (a human’s mouth)! It’s a comical sequence that gets a little old before the scene ends, but is filled with hilarious references about humans and their obsession with food. And it doesn’t stop there.

Humans are the main joke of the film, and Dreamworks comes up with many different ways that will have the audience laughing at themselves. Even most of the human characters in the film, from the uptight lofty-titled President of the Homeowner’s Association to the “Verninator” (a balding exterminator with a comb-over and a gut), almost every human is a caricature wild enough to get the audience chuckling even before they speak.

From the first scene of Over The Hedge, you’ll be hooked. Whether it’s the rather human-like antics these animals get up to, or the hilarious action sequences, you’ll stick around to see how it finally wraps up. By the time Hammy the Squirrel lays his hands on an energy drink, you’ll have forgotten all about the average “kid film” crowd around you, and be laughing right along with the rest as Hammy casually saunters through a world that has ceased all movement.

Only when the end credits roll – and you realize the putrid funk from those two gentlemen is threatening to overwhelm you – will you beat a hasty retreat from the theater. Over The Hedge is definitely worth seeing…but for those of you with less queasy stomachs, you may want to wait until you can watch this one in the privacy of your own home.

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