Audiences who peek Over the Hedge at DreamWorks
' latest creation are destined to find a homogenized animated feature that's as polished as the pop-up suburban neighborhood that houses the bulk of the action. Blessed with beautiful visuals, Hedge furthers the notion that animation remains the only genre capable of improving in quality quite literally from film to film. Too bad the top-notch art is married to a standard comedy script that's instantly forgettable.
R.J. (Bruce Willis
) is a smooth-talking raccoon who lands in hot water when he tries to steal food from a hibernating bear (Nick Nolte
). To spare his life, R.J. now has one week to recover a red wagon full of junk food or meet a grizzly fate. Lo and behold, the quick-thinking con artist crashes into a family of foraging beasts as they arise from their winter slumber. Led by neurotic turtle Verne (voiced by neurotic Garry Shandling
), the animals invade the pop-up planned community that surfaced while they slept and begin to rummage for sweet treats. Article continues below
It's par for the course to have celebrity talent stepping up the microphone for these excursions, and Hedge collects an impressive cache of over-the-title monikers. What appears to be a blessing of star power ends up being a curse. It's nearly impossible to separate the celebrity voice from the accompanying star, a fact that hinders each animal role. Stella may be a skunk with attitude, but we never forget it's Wanda Sykes
. William Shatner
becomes the first performer to overact in animated form – topping even Robin Williams
as Aladdin's genie. The artist previously known as Kirk enjoys at least three melodramatic death scenes as a possum named Ozzie. Willis has the most fun, rediscovering his Moonlighting-era sarcasm and long-gone personality. It's somewhat sad that it took the boundless art of animation to release his shackled wit.
Hedge actually trumps some of its rivals' animated efforts by conjuring fresh arguments against our culture of consumerism and the need to decimate natural areas to create unnatural suburban landscapes. I love that the animals bedded down for the winter and woke up to find a neighborhood built around them. This could have been a springboard to a truly interesting storyline. Instead, the four credited screenwriters fall back on the same whacks, kicks, punches, and musical montages (these provided by elevator-music rocker Ben Folds) that continuously bring down the bulk of the best cartoons.