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Hop
Genre Animation
Year: 2011
 
Review:

Santa is dead. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer has been flogged within an inch of his life and they will not ride again... at least not until next Christmas. After years of recession, Hollywood has had to do the unthinkable and re-open wabbit season. Just when you thought Bugs Bunny was safe, along comes... no, not Elmer Fudd but Hop - the quintessential candy-coated Easter story to rewrite history and nestle in as a companion piece to the splurge of chocoholic and shopaholic fever that takes over every year.

Fred O'Hare (James Marsden), a 20-something guy is forced to leave the nest and find his way in the world. Landing himself a house sitting job in a Beverly Hills mansion and a babysitting job with the Easter bunny may be even too far removed for The Fresh Prince, but not our Fred. After a job interview misfire, Fred finds himself in-line to the golden egg... as a rebellious Easter bunny "hare" to the throne tries to find fame and fortune in Hollywood.

On first inspection you'll find one Russell Brand, whose toothy British accent is charming enough to hold the voice role of "E.B.". Before you decipher those initials, you should know that his risque brand of stand-up has no bearing on this comedy. Neither does Hugh Hefner's presence for that matter. The Playboy bunny joke seems pretty obvious, but seems very out of place in this animated family adventure and quite ominous in its relation to bunnies and this time-honoured religious holiday.

Bar one scene where our adorable E.B. poops jellybeans and another where Sam (Kaley Cuoco) tastes watermelon, the comedy is relatively clean and above board. James Marsden fills in for Brendan Fraser in a sweet as candy role about a guy trying to leave the nest. He's supported by other real characters like Kaley Cuoco, Gary Cole and David Hasselhoff as David Hasselhoff. It's a strange ensemble of actors, who you wouldn't naturally imagine on screen together... even stranger than G-FORCE.

Hop is a Tim Hill film. He's famous for Spongebob Squarepants... and he's directed Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties and Alvin and The Chipmunks. Going into this movie armed with that knowledge is quite essential to metering your expectations. Russell Brand is the wild card, yet he's reduced to the same quizzical look you had when Jason Lee starred as Dave in Alvin and the Chipmunks. Their addition adds a little magic, which is just as quickly nullified by the strange casting decision.

The animated/live-action cross-over rarely works, yet manages to wield enough of a budget to rope in some of Hollywood's finest. Names like Russell Brand, Gary Cole, Hugh Laurie and Hank Azaria carry some serious comedy, star and cult power - and getting them to sign on to an animated feature like Hop must have taken some serious star-wrangling.

Once you get past the prolific choice of actors, there's not all that much to talk about. The chocolate box animation is delivered by the same team that brought us Despicable Me, which is solid enough to meld live-action and animated scenes with a range of tangible creatures. Their interactions with the humans is convincing enough to make the transition, but it's no Enchanted. When it comes to the quality of the cross-over, Hop falls into the same egg basket as the cartoon-to-film adaptations, Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

The script is a little pithy when it comes to comedy and without a popular book series or cartoon to reference comes up a little thin. One rock 'n roll bunny is a poor substitute for three karaoke pop idol chipmunks with high-pitched voices. Unfortunately, Hop just feels too much like a knock-off of Alvin and the Chipmunks with James Marsden in for Jason Lee. Simply relying on the magic of Easter Island and Easter as a holiday also creates problems, yet the scriptwriters have simply ignored the giant white rabbit in the room and not as creatively as Jimmy Stewart did in Harvey.

Was Hop meant to be the equivalent of a psychedelic trip for our young unemployed "failure to launch"? Did he just hallucinate the talking bunnies, immortal chicks and flying Easter egg-shaped spaceship? This would certainly explain away quite a lot of the film as our protagonist's surreal adventure takes the audience on extraordinary leaps of faith without even uncovering the reason for the rabbit race's proclivity to provide humans with colourful chocolate eggs once a year.

Hop is a real mess of colour, fun and accents. The lighthearted tone of the film allows it to take liberties in stretching the bounds of reality. The upbeat, chipper and feel good spirit also smooths over many of the gaping flaws in this animated adventure in much the same way that Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks did. The stars add a side order of charm to the movie, and without them it would fall very very flat. There are one or two chuckle-worthy moments, but the overall feeling is that Hop is a bit too dull for all it's good cheer - making it a mediocre outing for the kiddies.

The bottom line: Egg-on-face.

 

 

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