STUDIO: Dreamworks Home Video
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 83 Minutes
Commentary w/ directors and producer
"Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure" short
Dreamworks Kids featurettes
• Behind-the-scenes featurettes
• WWW unlockables
• Trailers

The Pitch

meets the bottom of the food chain!"

The Humans

Willis, Steve Carell, Garry Shandling, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, Avril
Lavigne, Nick Nolte

The Nutshell

woodland raccoon RJ (Willis) has gotten himself in a world of trouble. His
insatiable appetite has led him to steal the winter hoard of a certain grizzly
bear (Nolte). Unfortunately, said predator caught RJ in the act, and sets him a
task of replacing all the food that was stolen, or be eaten.

for the former, RJ befriends a cast of misfits to help him rob suburbia blind
of its partially hydrogenated soybean oil byproducts to satiate the grizzly’s
appetite. The problem is, because raccoons are naturally deceitful creatures,
he claims to his new friends that he is helping them gather food for the next
winter. As time ticks down, it’s anyone’s guess whose claim on the precious
food will win out.

"Look to your left, and your right. One of you will die of leukemia.
The others will starve to death."

The Lowdown

I ought
to put a brief disclaimer at the beginning of this review. In a small way, this
is the film that got me interested in movies in the first place. You see, the
artist of the strip one which Over the Hedge is based on, T Lewis,
and I used to play in a band together, back when I was much younger, and still
meet for coffee when our schedules coincide. Vicariously following the
development of Over the Hedge, through its various scripts, producers, and
studios hooked me into the
Hollywood alchemy that continues to fascinate.

having said that, I can go ahead and claim that I think the movie was worth the
wait. Pixar films maintain the gold standard for CGI features so far, purely
because of the quality of story. Dreamworks, who distribute Over
the Hedge
, have had a fair measure of success with the Shrek
franchise (and an equal number of flops — Shark Tale was it called?
Something.) and, on technical merits, that’s entirely deserved. That seems to
be something of a problem with CGI features: there’s very little
distinctiveness in the animation. If you play a clip from a
Miyazaki film right alongside a clip from Brother
or something else American and recent, it’s easy to recognize the
origins of each. Not so with the CGI stuff, which all takes on a similar
aesthetic in a concerted effort to replicate reality. (Flushed Away breaks the
trend by adopting the recognizable Aardman facial animations.)

Really, Ian? "You missed a spot!" is all you can come up with?

With all
technical aspects being roughly equal, the quality of the animation becomes
almost moot. (Not entirely. The animation improves in realism and in
fantastical quality, and looks objectively beautiful.) The film rests, then, on
the story, which is why Pixar films have set the bar for the other CGI features
to reach. Almost without fail, Pixar’s features are built off of quality
scripts which invest a lot in their characters and center around solid
emotional cores.

Enter Over
the Hedge
. Its story doesn’t quite measure up to, say, The
in potency or focus, but it is a definite
high point for Dreamworks releases. The
central theme is the child-friendly, adult-worthy loyalty to friends. Little
tendrils snake off from that center to touch on other related issues, such as
what happens when you dabble in disloyalty to yourself, and how the tension
between an adopted persona and your real self tends to wear you down to

Well I be done seen ’bout everything…

stuff. Fortunately, the arena in which the drama plays out allows for a much
lighter presentation than you’re liable ever to get from me. Setting the whole
thing just beyond the hedge that surrounds suburbia allows for a constant
string of jibes at human life. So many of the animals want to replicate the
actions and lifestyles of the human characters that our species comes off as
nothing short of absurd, in and of themselves and as inspirations. It’s an
unsophisticated blend of irony and cynicism, but its simple presence feels like
something of a victory for those of us who like a little self-deprecation and
realism mixed into our fantasy.

down a couple levels, though, there are some practical things that disrupt the plot’s
momentum. The cast of characters is overlarge, and while some (like Steve
Carell’s Hammy the Squirrel) are indispensable, there are others whose arcs are
rut-bound and serve as dead weight. And while the human characters are
necessary for the lampooning, their presence in key portions of the plot is
almost superfluous. Their villainy is uncomplicated, and far less threatening
than the ever-present shadow of the slumbering bear.

It takes almost a week to digest a whole pig.

including these unnecessary elements which weakens Over the Hedge‘s
standing. Instead of a simple anchor, the plot receives four or five moral
centers, and a pair of incompatible foil situations. Instead of the careful
development of two or three central characters, too much time is divided
amongst bit players with no discernible arcs. What ends up being fashioned from
these slight stumbles is a great little adventure with cynicism on one sleeve
and a heart on the other. I’m glad for the presence of both, but the heart is
perhaps more necessary and is certainly less developed.

The Package

A bunch
of little animated featurettes, including a new short featuring Hammy the
Squirrel, a commercial for Verm-Tech, and content-free previews for the
upcoming Bee Movie and Shrek 3. There is also a decently
informative behind-the-scenes segment, and technically-focused commentary. For
the kidlins, there are some games (of DVD quality, of course) and other
"Dreamworks Kids" segments, such as a tutorial on how to draw Hammy.

tutorials never work for me.

6.8 out of 10