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KINCHEN AT THE MOVIES: ‘Over the Hedge’ Features Junk-Food-Addicted Forest Critters Commenting on their New Human Neighbors

Posted by kinchendavid on July 17, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Hinton, WV — If 2 ½ hours of obscure theology is too much for you and – like me, you really wanted Russell Crowe or Liam Neeson to play Prof. Robert Langdon in “The Da Vinci Code” – head over to “Over the Hedge.”
A talented cast of perfectly matched voices, headed by Bruce Willis as RJ Raccoon and Garry Shandling as Verne the turtle, help make this 84-minute CGI animated feature from DreamWorks mostly pure entertainment with a little social commentary about suburban sprawl, friendship and the addictive nature of junk food thrown in.
Directors Tim Johnson and Kerry Kirkpatrick are helped by an excellent script by Len Blum and Lorne Cameron. Frankly, the music didn’t do anything for me, the one aspect of “Over the Hedge” that could have been improved. Willis reverts to his funnier, “Moonlighting” voicing style and he’s a captivating rascal of a raccoon who quickly takes over the leadership of the waking-from-hibernation band of critters from the timid Verne.
If DreamWorks isn’t marketing a line of figures based on the critters, they’re really missing a trick. From Stella the skunk (Wanda Sykes) to William Shatner as Ozzie the possum — along with a charming Avril Lavigne as his daughter Heather, the animals are perfect, but I’ve already said that!. Nick Nolte plays the Vincent the bear, from whom RJ steals his cache of junk food – food that must be replaced from the humans in the sprawling tract development “over the hedge” or RJ will become lunch himself.
Steve Carell (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”, “Melinda and Melinda,” “Anchorman”) voices a hyperactive – is there any other kind? – squirrel named Hammy that will remind everybody of Scrat, from the “Ice Age” movies. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, two of the most talented Canadians to grace our south-of-the-border screens, play to perfection a porcupine couple named Lou and Penny.
There are many references to other movies in “Over the Hedge,” including a pest control technician named Dwayne (Thomas Haden Church of “Sideways”) hired by a stereotypically everything-must-be-perfect career woman named Gladys, voiced by Allison Janney (“The West Wing”). Dwayne’s “Verminator” reminds me of the John Goodman character in “Arachnophobia.” There is a scene involving lasers that will bring to mind one of the “Mission Impossible” flicks, etc.
The social commentary is on the tame side, with one character saying the critters eat to live, while the humans live to eat. Guilty as charged! Everybody will enjoy the Girl Scout cookie scene, where food is so important to the humans they even have it delivered by people in uniform.
The animation is DreamWorks excellent and the movie is rated PG, suitable for the entire family. Take the kids or the grandkids the first time, then come back by yourself: It’s that kind of movie.


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