Over The Hedge is a rare animation in this day and age because it actually executes a coherent plot. This seems to be a dying breed in the land of pretty but vapid animation fare. Actually, kids in general have been dealt a huge disservice as somewhere along the line Hollywood decided eye candy and one liners were enough, let these crazy kids learn storyline somewhere else down the road (if ever). Films like The Wild and The Shaggy Dog have become the norm while cooler fare like Over The Hedge has become the exception.
Over The Hedge is the story of a group of animals dealing with the encroachment of the suburbs (The Hedge). It’s also the story of RJ (Bruce Willis) attempting to pay back a very angry bear whom he stole a ton of food from in one of the opening scenes. RJ has to enlist an unsuspecting group of kindly animals in his quest to repay his debt. He uses the oldest trick in the book to convince them suburbia isn’t so bad, the Dorito. Oh Dorito, how fickle your touch, how bold your taste. The plot starts lightning quick and the main characters are introduced in short order with fluidity. They’ll deal with crazy homeowners, crazy exterminators and various house pets along the way in their epic quest for sustenance. I hope you enjoyed this quasi-plot report, I’m guessing you aren’t looking for Casablanca in your weekly outing to the theater with the children.
One thing that I noticed which gave me a bit of trouble was how quickly the concept of death was introduced in this one (similar to Ice Age 2). I’m not sure if kids have become more accustomed to such complex themes or perhaps no one’s too concerned about it but I don’t remember the animation of my youth being so up front about matters of mortality. Yeah, death was out there (see Bambi’s Mom) but it was always kind of an unspoken deal, wasn’t it? I don’t know, maybe this is the final sign I’ve gotten old (besides being appalled by the youngsters on The Real World).
Ben Fold’s music is sprinkled throughout Over The Hedge and it plays very nicely. He’s also got a song in Hoodwinked which makes me wonder if he’s decided to bag the adult acoustic demographic and concentrate solely on reaching young minds early. In this manner perhaps he’ll be huge in 20 years as older folk fondly remember the movie cartoons of their day. Regardless I love his music here (and his other stuff too) even though I’m not completely sold that the reworking of “Rocking the Suburbs” was completely age appropriate for developing intellects.
Overall I’ve got to heartily recommend Over The Hedge because it has genuine moments of tension, some laughs, and a good story. The voice work is nice and the animation is consistent with the standards of this high tech world. Over The Hedge and Ice Age 2 both share a common character thread with a crazy quick squirrel who is prohibited from caffeine but Over The Hedge uses him just a smidge better at the end. It’s this type of little victory throughout that keeps the film moving nicely. Find a niece or son and spend the $20 (popcorn, drink, hot dog) to take them to the movies. It’s a nice break from the mindlessness generally delivered directly to your dome.