Over the Hedge
Over the Hedge 2006
I vaguely remember watching Over the Hedge back when it was relatively new. I don’t think I made it to theaters to watch it, but eventually after it came out on home video. I mostly remember the fact that it starred Bruce Willis and Garry Shandling as the two main characters and at some point I got an Over the Hedge comic strip collection. I’m also reviewing this in part for Movie Rob’s Genre Guesstimation where he tasked me with deciding the genre for him to examine during February. I chose animated comic book/comic strip adaptations and while I’ve pretty much covered every American animated comic book movie, I thought I’d expand things to cover this movie based on a comic strip. And unlike comic strips like Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, or the Addams Family which are generally a series of stand-alone strips or panels, Over the Hedge is a serialized comic strip that you can read online here, which is close enough to a comic book for my purposes here on this site.
The story itself is a fairly typical misfit-finds-a-family story where the misfit in question is a Bruce Willis voiced raccoon named RJ. The initial conflict comes when RJ is overly greedy and steals an entire junk food haul from a giant bear voiced by Nick Nolte only to have the haul get hit by a semi and flattened all over the road. He finds a family of foragers who wake up from their hibernation to find themselves out of their forest and in a small park area within a giant suburban subdivision. He cons his way into the family of small woodland creatures by playing off his street smarts to get them filled with human junk food instead of the nuts and berries that they would be used to.
The characters are all pretty entertaining. Bruce Willis plays a typical Bruce Willis type character, wisecracking street smart con man. Garry Shandling plays the nervous turtle leader of the foraging family Verne who spends most of the movie as the perennial wet blanket but does get one of the best lines of the movie when he explains that if RJ had just told them that he needed the food to save himself from an angry bear they would have still done it for him anyway rather than having him trick them into gathering the food for him under false pretenses. The rest of the cast are generally one-note jokes with William Shatner playing the overdramatic possom who makes a big deal over playing dead, the hyperactive squirrel played by Steve Carrell even though they re-use a very similar joke from Hoodwinked which came out the year before when they give the squirrel caffeine. Although they do take this in a slightly different direction where Hoodwinked had Twitchy shoot off in a trail of smoke, this movie has Hammy move at normal speed where everything else slows down. It’s similar to the difference between how Quicksilver is handled in Age of Ultron vs the X-Men films.
The villains are also a fun sort with basically three different villains all vying for screen time. There’s the bear of course which doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time although there are a couple dream appearances that help keep the threat alive while still making a certain amount of sense. There’s also the head of the homeowner’s association Gladys who is now what would generally be called a Karen, or a “I need to speak to the manager” type. And toward the latter half of the movie they call in the exterminator voiced by Thomas Hayden Church in a role that seems like it was written for someone like Patrick Warburton although Church does a fantastic job in the role of the overly confident exterminator.
The animation in the film is pretty on par with everything that came out around this era. It was a Dreamworks film that followed a few years after Shrek 2 and just before Shrek 3. All the characters fare well enough with a few moments of comical special effects like when RJ first opens the bag of not-Doritos and there’s a giant explosion of nacho cheese dust that covers the entire group. The humor throughout really feels like it was what was brought from the original comics the most. RJ has plenty of great moments where he explains suburban life from the perspective of a raccoon who is a full on representation of the Id. Everything that RJ focuses on throughout the movie is all about eating and having to work as little as possible to get it.
All in all, Over the Hedge is a fun movie. The humor is light and cartoonish with plenty of slapstick elements without overly relying on bathroom or juvenile humor. The underlying message works without leaning too heavily on it. RJ learns his lesson about being selfish and finds himself a family that’s willing to look out for him when no one else will. The rest of the foraging animals also get to let loose a little bit and not be so uptight so they can adapt to their new living situation. It’s a good combination of slapstick, a little bit of satire, and a little bit of a message without being a treacle-y feel good movie. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.