CHECK : For cover (2006)

Movie reviews

Over the Hedge is a DreamWorks film you may not have heard much about. Over the Hedge was released in 2006 and is based on the comic book of the same name, written by Michael Fry and illustrated by T. Lewis. The film has an impressive cast with names like Bruce Willis, Steve Carrell, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, Nick Nolte and many others. Above the Hedge is directed by Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick, with a dozen writers, including Len Blum and Lorne Cameron. Interestingly, Over the Hedge was originally a Fox Animation Studios project that would have been directed by legendary animator Don Bluth. However, poor reviews and box office results from Bluth’s 2000 project Titan A.E. led to the studio’s closure, and Over the Hedge was delayed until DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg showed interest and bought the film rights to Fry and Lewes’ comic book. We’ll never know what Bluth’s version would have looked like, or if he was any good, but we can’t help but wonder. I saw Behind the Hedge in the theater when it came out, and I really liked it. That said, I was 11 years old, and my taste in movies has changed a lot since then. Luckily Max from HBO had the movie and I watched it a second time. Let’s see.

Hedges is pursued by R.J. (Bruce Willis), an opportunistic raccoon who tries to make a living by stealing human food. The story begins when he fails to get a bag of chips from a vending machine and decides to look up Ozzie (Nick Nolte), a sleepy bear with a treasure trove of candy. Things go wrong for RJ when he accidentally wakes up Ozzy and also pushes a food truck loaded with Ozzy’s lair onto the highway, where they are promptly crushed. RJ survives by promising to get all the stuff back before Ozzie’s hibernation ends. RJ soon finds himself on the same side of a hedge as a group of animals awakening from hibernation. Across the hedge is a brand new suburb full of junk food, ripe for the taking if R.J. can convince his new friends to face their fears and cross the alien compound that was built while they slept. But when RJ is accepted into their family, he begins to bond. Will he ignore his guilt and give Ozzie the food, or will he decide to join the family and tell everyone the truth?

It’s sometimes hard to remember how old a film is in relation to the ageing of its technical effects. When I saw Hedges, the animation seemed fine to me. I’d put it on the level of current cartoons, but considering Over the Hedge came out fifteen years ago, the animation is actually pretty good. Their coat is a bit clumsy, but their movements are fluid and they have very expressive eyes. There are a few non-diegetic songs by Ben Folds on the soundtrack that are very good. Some of the lyrics are quite straightforward, which you can take from the experience, and the style is a bit sentimental for me. It’s like the songs want to be quirky, which bothers me. However, the score by Rupert Gregson-Williams (Harry’s younger brother) is quite good. I think Over the Hedge could have done without the background songs, especially given the short length of the film. The movie is about an hour and twenty minutes long if you don’t count the credits, and that’s a lot less even for a cartoon for kids.

Nad Hedges’ main focus is comedy. The premise of cute forest animals terrorizing people and stealing their food is pretty funny in itself, and Nad Hedges tries to exploit that as best he can. Much of the comedy in the film is not for me, such as the running gag that Vern (Harry Shandling) constantly sheds his shield and we see his ass. I think something like that would work better with kids, which makes sense. Some characters have good chemistry, but overall this is the kind of movie where you turn off your brain and enjoy eighty minutes of nibbling. And I think that’s good, but Over the Hedge is ultimately more for kids than adults. My parents, with whom we saw the film in 2006, do not have fond memories of it and show no interest in seeing it again. Usually DreamWorks goes out of their way to entertain the whole family, and honestly I think that effort was made here, but it didn’t really work.

The film is not a total failure though, the vocal performances are consistently good. As mentioned earlier, the characters largely complement each other well. I always enjoy seeing (or hearing) Catherine O’Hara, and in Behind the Hedge she plays Lou and Penny with her boyfriend Eugene Levy. Nick Nolte is very good as Ozzy, and he really sounds like a bear with his deep, rumbling voice that gets louder when he’s angry. Honestly, my favorite thing about Over the Hedge is the human villains, Gladys (Allison Janney) and Dwayne (Thomas Hayden Church). The first is the president of a homeowners association, who clearly doesn’t want animals terrorizing her neighbors. To get rid of them, she calls Dwayne and asks him to kill the animals in increasingly inhumane and illegal ways. His appearance at the end is one of the funniest scenes in the film. These two have most of the best, most absurd lines in the film, and personally I love these actors. Allison Janney is one of the best actresses, and I’ve been a fan of Church since George Jungle.

It’s a sensitive point and probably unnecessary to talk about in a movie like this, but it bothers me that Ozzy is portrayed as the bad guy because he’s mad at RJ and threatens him if he doesn’t replace the food. RJ is the bad guy in this situation because he destroyed Ozzie’s grocery store, and I don’t see how anyone can think otherwise. Ozzy does bad things, like say RJ should leave his friends and live on his own like he did, but how is that worse than stealing and eventually destroying all the food Ozzy had? I don’t think the filmmakers put much thought into it, but it sends a questionable message, especially to children.

Above Hedge has a good character design and good vocal performance. The animation looks great, and the characters are very likable. For such an interesting movie for kids, it has a strange message about the morality of stealing. The theme of family distress is a bit heavy-handed, and R.J.’s turnaround comes too late, but the film is fun.

Location – 4
Action – 8
Control/Assembly – 6
Music/Sound – 5
Animation – 7

6

No

Above Hedge has a good character design and good vocal performance. The animation looks great, and the characters are very likable. For such an interesting movie for kids, it has a strange message about the morality of stealing. The theme of family distress is a bit heavy-handed, and R.J.’s turnaround comes too late, but the film is fun.

frequently asked questions

What is Behind the Hedge about?

Behind the hedges.

How old is Heather from Over Hedge?

Heather is a 16-year-old possum.

Who speaks the voice of the bear behind Hedges?

Vincent Bear (voiced by Nick Nolte) wakes up to discover his entire food supply….. has been stolen! He arrests the thief RJ Raccoon (Bruce Willis) and gives him a deadline to return the food, or he will have to give it back.

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