Over the Hedge
I’ve secretly replaced their trail mix with Folger’s crystals.

Theatrical Release Date: 05/19/2006
Directors: Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick
Featuring the Voices of: Bruce Willis, Steve Carell, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Allison Janney, Thomas Haden Church, William Shatner, Avril Lavigne, Wanda Sykes, Garry Shandling, Omid Djalili, Nick Nolte

While I don’t expect an animated kids film to go the distance to be correct about their facts, I’m baffled as to why the creators of “Over the Hedge” decided to say that turtles, possums, squirrels, porcupines and skunks can all form a family unit and hibernate through the winter.

I know it’s a kids film. I know that it’s unbelievable enough for animals to talk and develop complex heist schemes to get people food. I’m still a bit fuzzy on the hibernation thing, squirrel aside.

Anywho, currently filling some space between the ears of kids everywhere is “Over the Hedge.” I’m gonna try and make this review as short and painless as possible since I have better things to do.

I’m not even going to mention the writers and directors (yes plural) because they really don’t matter. If it wasn’t a complete cop out, I’d probably just grab the “Ice Age: The Meltdown” review and paste it in here.

That’s not completely fair as I found many more enjoyable things in “Over the Hedge” but I feel like I’m going to hit some of the same beats.

First, the film’s premise is that a wily raccoon (Bruce Willis) has angered a local bear (Nick Nolte) and owes him a shiny red wagon full of post-hibernation, buy it at Wal-Mart, packaged and processed junk food.

I thought that the combination of Nolte’s naturally scary voice (I keep imagining his mugshot) and the sharp claws wrapped around the raccoon’s head were all a bit too much for a kids film. Maybe I’m just getting old and have too much nostalgia for the kids films of my youth.

In any case, to get back the food, the raccoon befriends the atypical family unit I mentioned earlier. Through the normal motions of every other kids movie, there are ups and downs and eventually the nice animals are rewarded with a happy ending.

While I make comparisons between this film and “Ice Age 2”, the key difference is the better quality of voice-talent in “Over the Hedge”.

First you have Steve Carell as Hammy the squirrel. Probably the best lines in the movie are his and I could just see his real face uttering the squirrel’s lines. I’d love a cookie, too!

Then you have the father-daughter possums, William Shatner and Avril Lavigne. Yes, Shatner himself plays Lavigne’s dad! I think you see the genius in this already.

Somewhat more subtle of a genius pairing are the porcupine parents, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. From their work on SCTV to their multiple involvements with Christopher Guest mockumentaries, putting Levy and O’Hara together is comic gold.

Allison Janney does a nice job as the crazed head of the homeowners association who wants to get rid of the animals stealing food from the neighborhood and Thomas Haden Church is a pretty good animal wrangler but I was a little too often reminded of Patrick Warburton, who I really love for voice-over work.

Omid Djalili does a nice job of being a snooty, Persian cat and Wanda Sykes is likeable enough as the wisecracking skunk. Even Garry Shandling didn’t mess up his role as the turtle in charge of his rag-tag band of strays.

The animation was also done very well and they spent their budget wisely on that note.

All of that aside, the plot was thin and felt a little stretched. I know it’s a kids film but Pixar has set the bar higher and that makes it harder to be suckered into a lesser film.

If you are desperate for a cute, animated film, go ahead and check out this one. Just don’t expect much.

I’m giving “Over the Hedge” a 3 out of 5. However, keep in mind that without some of the fabulous voice talent and the clean animation, I probably would have given it a 2. It was a close call.