Thursday, 5 April 2007

Over The Hedge (2006)

Over The Hedge

Anybody who's had the misfortune to have to sit through a TV chat show interview with Bruce Willis knows that the man appears to have had a serious personality bypass. Getting him to volunteer any information is like pulling teeth, and in real life he appears to have all the charisma of a plank of wood.

So it seems bizarre to say the least to have him heading up the cast in a CGI 'toon. Voice acting for such projects involves having to over-project and exaggerate personality and speech. And if there isn't much personality there to start with.... What's really very impressive is that Willis actually pulls it off. Who'd a thunk?!

Garry Shandling plays Verne, the wise tortoise in the group

Over The Hedge is yet another of those 'diverse animals on a big adventure' stories. You know the sort - lots of 'different' personalities and some sort of 'life lesson' subject buried in amongst the fart and sight gags. This time around it's ecology (again!) with us humans being the butt of the criticism, what with our wasteful ways and all. Want an example? Encountering a people carrier one animal asks how many humans it carries. 'Usually one' comes the rather tart reply. If subtlety's your thing then this film probably isn't for you!

Fortunately, although the ecology message is plastered all over the film with a trowel, it is saved by a lively action-packed yarn, and an array of characters that have plenty to do. As a result, it's very hard to resist its not inconsiderable charms, despite the clichés that abound. Unlike Happy Feet, which I reviewed a couple of days ago on HD-DVD, young kids are unlikely to get bored by the lack of change of background scenery or slapstick action with this film.

The Laughing Hyenas

Bruce Willis plays 'RJ' a rather over-coiffured raccoon who's on the run from a large bear, with time running out on a promise that he'll return stolen food or face the consequences. He finds a group of gullible animals just walking up from hibernation, who have just discovered that a large hedge has appeared on their land, severely limiting their opportunities for finding food. With his knowledge of the new suburbia that's encroaching on their land, RJ sets out to take advantage of the animals and get them to steal food from the humans that he can use to pay off his debt to the bear.

You can probably guess the ending already. As is usual with these things, RJ eventually sees the error of his ways, and comes to learn that friends and loyalty are more important than being a loner who constantly steals and scavenges. Hoorah!

The cast all do an excellent job, and what a cast this is! Garry Shandling plays the cool, calm and collected Verne who has been the leader of the animals until they've fallen under the spell of the new usurper from out of town. Steve Carrell plays the completely mad, hyper-active Hammy. Check out the cast list on imdb and you'll see William Shatner and Nick Nolte and... well the list of celebrities is endless, and they all manage to acquit themselves with honour. Half of the fun with this film, for adults at least, is vaguely recognising a voice and trying to guess which famous celebrity it is.

A Skunk with Attitude!

Of the three CGI 'toons I've reviewed this week, this is probably the one that will be most popular with younger kids, featuring a lot of slapstick and visual sight gags, instead of aiming too much of the story over their heads at adults. Not that adults will be bored - the ridiculously diverse characters are too entertaining for that, and even if a scene comes along that is a bit too clichéd or boring things move along so fast that you can relax, knowing there will be something more interesting coming along any minute.

If the film does have a fault it's that it's a bit of a hotch-potch. Not so much a story, as a series of sketches slotted together pretending to be a story!

The transfer to DVD is stunning. Colours are nice and vibrant, so that at times the picture feels almost 3D-like. This could give some of the weaker High Definition releases a run for their money!

The extra's on the main DVD are a little skimpy, although the obscure animated menu does its best to disguise the fact. A couple of different menu items take you to the same extra, and often the item is just a short trailer or very short featurette or, worse, an advert for yet another CGI adventure or traditional cartoon available on DVD. Such blatent marketing to kids really shouldn't be allowed.

The frenetic, slightly mad squirrel

The DVD packaging boasts of 'bags of bonus features', but that's bags as in the size of the ones you get under your eyes, rather than anything that would really count as being substantial.

The highlight is the short (as in just a few minutes) Hammy's Boomerang Adventure, and it's joined by a short Making of which shows most of the celebrity talent behind the vocals, a rather odd Dwayne's Verm-Tech Infomercial which is a spoof ad for the rodent disposal company featured in the main film, and an Insiders Look which seems to consist mainly of people boasting about how they've managed to realistically reproduce fur. It's never much fun seeing rather immodest people patting themselves on the backs for the new realism they've produced, and I think the screencaps on this page show how exaggerated some of their claims might be. It's not that the CGI is bad, it's just that somehow it doesn't feel quite finished in too many places.

That being said, it's an enjoyable enough 'toon, and certainly one of the better ones that received a theatrical release last year. It's currently available in a special twin-pack that includes a Dreamworks Interactive DVD Game, all for the same price as an ordinary single DVD would sell for, so it's a bit of a bargain. Kids will find plenty to play and re-play with this DVD set and so this is a recommended purchase rather than a rental.

The other side of the hedge

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i love over the hedge and bruce willis <3