Over the Hedge ★★★½

This must be the first time I've seen a DreamWorks film in years. While they're generally a studio that has been hit-and-miss over the years, I'll say there's more than a few films of theirs I've taken a liking to. Over the Hedge was one that I considered one of their better ones, because what's more appealing than seeing cute woodland creatures wreck havoc on human society?

RJ is an opportunistic raccoon who finds himself in the shit when he is given just a week to replace a food batch he destroyed belonging to grizzly bear Vincent. Meanwhile, a group of animals who have woken up from hibernation to find their once expansive forest surrounded by blocks of newly-build suburbs. Of course, RJ manipulates this group to venture into suburbia gather together the food he needs (and learning the importance of family along the way), while cynical turtle Verne becomes increasingly suspicious of RJ’s true motives. Next thing you know, an animal exterminator (or ‘The Verminator’) is called in when the damage to suburbia becomes too much.

As per usual for a DreamWorks production, Hedge boasts a cast of "who's who?" of A-listers, who to be fair do a good job with the material. Willis for example puts more effort into voicing RJ here than he probably has in any actual film role in the past 10 years, and I enjoy Nick Nolte's gravelly-voiced performance as Vincent. Meanwhile, the slapsticky, gag-filled humour that was funnier to me in my younger years, comes off as more obnoxious and eye-rolling now, Hammy is a character I find to be somewhat irritating (though Steve Carell's voice-acting is on point).

Still, it provides some amusing satire on consumerist society, and provides a fair amount of amusing and chaotic set-pieces (like a climatic van chase and ends in anarchy). The quality of the animation does show its age by today, but I'd say for 2006 it gets the job done. The environments are generally bright and colourful, and I like the stylised designs of the film's animal characters. I know some would disagree as well, but I quite enjoy the pop-rock songs by Ben Folds (including the “Heist” montage), even if they date the film a little worse than they should.

Even if Over the Hedge doesn’t hold up as much to me as it used to as a child, it’s still an amusing and entertaining trip down memory lane. For the most part, it’s “middle-of-the-road” as far as DreamWorks goes, nothing too deep or thought-provoking but still serviceable as mindless, inoffensive entertainment. I highly doubt adults watching it for the first time would get a whole lot out of it, but back in the day this was well and truly my shit.

Also, did anyone know this was based off a comic strip? I never knew that until very recently.


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