Dreamworks, the official
studio of shallow, conspicuously-consuming suburbanites, sets
up a premise with Over the Hedge that it's too damn scared
to follow through on. It could be the story of a band of wild
animals who must fight the suburbs that paved over their wilderness
one winter while they hibernated. It could be a sly commentary
about the waste and emptiness of a disposable, SUV lifestyle.
But it's pretty fucking hard to make a feel-good Kids' Meal
Toy for that.
the Hedge starts out with a sly premise and devolves into
yet another computer animated movie about cute little creatures
fighting a singular, evil, full-grown human. Bruce Willis plays
a smart-mouthed raccoon indebted to a homicidal bear. He must
replace the huge wagon of junk food he destroyed within a week
or be eaten. The movie doesn't explain why the raccoon can't
just move away, but let's figure it's because if he took the
obvious route there would be no movie.
Willis recruits a
band of naive herbivores who live on bark and nuts to help him
ransack the new cul de sacs and mini-mansions that sprouted
up around them. The grass-eaters include Garry Shandling as
a nebbishy turtle, Wanda Sykes as a sassy skunk, Steve Carell
as a manic squirrel, William Shatner as an overacting opossum,
and Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as, inexplicably, Minnesotan
porcupines. I guess the folks at Dreamworks haven't heard that
a Minnesota twang is neither funny nor a good substitute for
character. It's just a lilt that unimaginative fucks use to
put on when you mention the movie Fargo.
The suburbs, though,
aren't the problem. They could be, and should be if Dreamworks
had any balls at all. Instead, conflict is a woman so caricaturishly
evil that won't cause qualms in all the moms who shuttled their
overfed kids to the theaters in Hummers and Tahoes. Even the
ones who keep checking their God damned cell phones, dress their
babies in Baby Gap and talk shit to their little children in
the lobby. She wants the critters destroyed before they ruin
her perfect suburb and she hires a en exterminator to help.
All of the little
critters are pretty damn familiar and one-dimensional. They
have problems that can be easily and neatly resolved. Willis's
scheming raccoon has the expected crisis of conscience when
the cute little critters discover that he doesn't have them
collecting food for themselves. Sykes has low self-esteem and
finds love. Shandling's nervous turtle learns to relax and trust
other people through the adventure. And Shatner finally earns
respect from his hipster daughter played by Avril Lavigne (I
thought she was dead, or at the least, buried alive).
Of course, a movie
like this can wrap up all the neat, tidy little pieces. What
it can't do is deliver on the theme it fakes early on. The poor
animals are horrified to discover that the limitless forest
they lived in is now a hedged-in park within a sprawling suburb,
and it's planned for future development. In the end, though,
that horror is forgotten and they're perfectly happy. So, in
that way, they are numbed into oblivion by the suburbs, the
fast food and the massive vehicles the same way the movie almost,
but not quite, proposes that humans are.
There are some amusing
moments to the movie, and I probably would have laughed when
the overfriendly Rottweiler set off a wild chase, if I weren't
so creeped out by the mixed message being presented. Who knows,
maybe the fucks who made Over the Hedge don't even realize
how responsible for our disposable culture. And maybe the people
starring in it aren't being hypocritical assholes when they
crack jokes about wasteful giant cars are. I doubt it, though.
It's insidious, you
know, the way Over the Hedge pretends to have a soul,
but really doesn't. It's far more suburban than wild. In that
way, it's like a teenager who buys his rebellion with his allowance,
and all the people with glossy lawns, waxed trucks and no hobbies.