I’ve never really read the comic strip Over the Hedge, but the few that I have seen were pretty funny. It’s a nice satirical look at American suburbia, as seen through the eyes of some rather witty and clever woodland creatures. The film, a CGI-animated production released by Dreamworks Animation, acts as a prequel to the comic strip.
RJ (voiced by Bruce Willis) is a smart-talking raccoon who is caught stealing Vincent the bear’s (Nick Nolte) stash of food during his hibernation period. Vincent gives RJ two weeks to get everything back – or he’ll eat him. (No, this isn’t really for little kids – the movie is PG.) So RJ heads to suburbia, where Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling) and his “family” are waking up from their hibernation period as well. The gang includes Hammy the squirrel (Steve Carell), Stella the skunk (Wanda Sykes), Ozzie the possum (Williams Shatner) and his daughter, and Penny and Lou the porcupies (SCTV alumnis Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara) and their kids. They’re out of food, so it’s convenient that RJ shows up to convince them to raid the suburbs.
Verne is rightfully suspicious, but RJ manages to convince them into helping him recover all the items needed to save him from Vincent – under the ruse that it’s food for them to survive until the next hibernation period. As the movie goes on, lots of funny moments ensue, and some nice touching moments as RJ is welcomed into the family – but his guilty conscience might get the best of him. Meanwhile, their raids into suburbia are not going unnoticed, as the president of the homeowner’s association, Gladys (Allison Janey) calls in the exterminator (Thomas Hayden Church) to get rid of the scavengers once and for all.
The film is overall a blast. The visuals are sharp and detailed, the animation quite well done, and the comedy will appeal to most audiences, but do NOT bring little kids to this movie. (It’s PG for a reason, get it? Sheesh. Audiences suck.) The music for the film was really well done too. Co-director Tim Johnson (Ants, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas) had previously worked with composer Harry Gregson-Williams, but this time around he used his brother, Rupert. A few new songs by Ben Folds add some emotional moments as well.
Over the Hedge is definitely worth seeing, but just avoid the times where little kids might be there. And if you’re in Los Angeles or New York, you might even get to see the short-film First Flight in front of it. It’s a touching story about a man helping a little bird who fell out of his nest, and was scored by my friend Jim Dooley. So, go support it!