August 10, 2006 -- “Over the Hedge” is a pleasant little animated film with great graphics, strong characters and a passable story about the value of family and friends. It's cutting-edge digital animation is startlingly lifelike, sharp, and it looks three-dimensional. Filmmakers developed more refined hair, fur and quill software motion controls for this film. The story and characters are based on a popular comic strip about animals living in suburbia. It strikes a near-perfect balance of humor aimed at both adults and children. It also features the usual cast of famous actor's voices.
The main character is a shifty racoon named RJ who travels around with a golf bag full of tools and is hooked on junk food. He tries to steal a stash of food from a large bear named Vincent. He is caught and Vincent gives RJ a week to replace the food he stole or be killed. RJ later stumbles on a strange communal pack of animals living next to suburbs. He decides that these foraging animals can be put to use to round up the junk food he needs to placate the angry bear. His plan works well. He initiates the wild animals into the ways of suburbia and shows them how humans serve up enormous amounts of surplus food in gleaming garbage cans. He soon has them hooked on junk food. His keen observations about America's wasteful eating habits are hilarious. The film also makes a lot of funny references to other films, such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Citizen Kane.” The story is a good compromise between adult and child-level humor.
RJ soon has a devoted following among this band of wild animals and is accepted as part of their family. Eventually, he has to choose between loyalty to his newfound friends and his need to placate the angry bear. He also has to learn to deal with a new enemy, the head of the local homeowner's association, Gladys Sharp, who has hired a ruthless exterminator, Dwayne “The Verminator,” to kill the animals. All of these issues are resolved in a final battle. The film is visually imaginative, inventing an endless stream of funny pratfalls to go with its funny human follies. The characterizations are strong, from the menacing bear, to the crafty RJ, to the steadfast turtle, Verne, to the hyperactive squirrel, Hammy, to the sassy skunk, Stella, to the skittish possum, Ozzie. As is the custom with these kinds of films, famous actors do the voices of the characters, including Bruce Willis (RJ), Nick Nolte (Vincent) and William Shatner (Ozzie). Wanda Sykes does a good job with the sassy voice of Stella. This film rates a B.
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