Film: Over the Hedge

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Over the Hedge

Director: Tim Johnson, Karey Kirkpatrick
Distributor: Dreamworks

Just whose backyard is it, anyway?

Spring has sprung, and Verne and his woodland friends awaken from their long winter’s nap to discover that a tall, green “thing” has mysteriously cropped up right through the middle of their home. Enter RJ, an opportunistic raccoon, who explains that the world beyond the hedge is the “gateway to the good life” where peculiar creatures called humans live to eat, rather than eat to live.

Suspicious and even a little jealous of RJ, the ever-cautious Verne wants to keep his blended family safely on their side of the hedge. But, proving the adage that one man’s garbage is another man’s—or rather animal’s—treasure, the manipulative RJ tries to convince the woodland band that there is little to fear and everything to gain from their over-indulgent new neighbors. Eventually, RJ and Verne form an unlikely friendship as they learn to co-exist with—and even exploit—this strange new world called suburbia.


The manicured lawns and overstuffed garbage cans of suburbia become a buffet for woodland creatures in Over the Hedge. A self-centered raccoon named RJ (voiced by Bruce Willis, Die Hard) steals and accidentally destroys the hoard of an angry bear (Nick Nolte, 48 Hours), who gives the raccoon a week to replace it. RJ despairs—until he meets an odd gang of foragers, ranging from a turtle named Verne (Garry Shandling, The Larry Sanders Show), a father/daughter duo of opossums (the bizarre pairing of William Shatner and pop singer Avril Lavigne), a family of porcupines (with A Mighty Wind’s Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as the parents), and a hyperactive squirrel named Hammy (Steve Carell, The 40 Year Old Virgin). By convincing these friendly beasts that the suburban homesteads on the other side of a recently erected hedge are a mother-lode of cast-off food, RJ hopes to dupe them into doing his gathering. But when the suburban residents realize they’ve been invaded by woodland pests, an exterminator is called to take care of the problem. The overarching storyline of Over the Hedge is pure formula—your basic “family matters more than anything” lesson—but moment to moment, the movie is delightfully crisp and clever. The animation is topnotch, the acting is excellent (other voices include those of Allison Janney, The West Wing, and Thomas Haden Church, Sideways), and the satirical jabs at consumerism are actually funny. An above-average animated movie. —Bret Fetzer

Barnes and Noble

It’s spring, and a close-knit group of forest creatures awaken from hibernation with but one thought: It’s only 274 days until winter. “Nine berries from starvation,” the friends search for food, led by the cautious turtle Verne (Garry Shandling). What they find is half their habitat gone and a hedge looming before them like the Great Wall of China. On the other side is “54 acres of man-made, manicured, air-conditioned paradise.” Their guide to this foreign land (where, a porcupine notes, the grass is actually greener) is R.J (Bruce Willis), a charismatic, fast-talking raccoon, who promises them a junk food paradise. What he doesn’t tell them is that he plans to hijack their hard-earned stockpile and deliver it to Vincent (a growling Nick Nolte), a vicious bear who has given R.J. just one week to replace the food he tried to steal from Vincent and inadvertently destroyed. Inspired by the syndicated comic strip, Over the Hedge is a story of redemption with some clever social satire added to the mix. “That is an SUV,” R.J. observes. “Humans ride in them because they are slowly losing their ability to walk.” Of course, there are also mildly rude jokes of the “Wanna help me find my nuts?” variety. The producers certainly didn’t hedge on the voice talent. Steve Carrell’s hyper and nutty squirrel, Hammy, has the breakout potential of Scrat from Ice Age. Wanda Sykes brings her characteristic sass to Stella, a skunk. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara are porcupine parents, with William Shatner as a possum who plays dead with hammy bravado and Avril Lavigne as his daughter. Representing the human species, Allison Janney is a freaked-out homeowner who hires pest control expert “the Verminator” (Thomas Haden Church) to rid the area of the encroaching animals. She dismisses his humane methods. “I want them exterminated as inhumanely as possible,” she orders. From individual blades of grass to the spray from sprinklers' dancing waters, the computer animation is stunningly clear and sharp. Complementing the ultra-realistic style are such comic-strip flourishes as a hilarious outer-space perspective of an atomic blast of nacho chips that rocks the animals' world. With its environmental-awareness message and celebration of family, Over the Hedge is anything but junk food. Donald Liebenson

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