DVD Review: Over the Hedge
Release Date: October 17, 2006
· Tim Johnson
· Karey Kirkpatrick
· Bruce Willis
· Garry Shandling
· Steve Carell
· Wanda Sykes
· William Shatner
· Nick Nolte
· Thomas Haden Church
· Allison Janney
· Eugene Levy
· Catherine O'Hara
· Avril Lavigne
· IMDb: Over the Hedge
· Over the Hedge comic strips online
by R.J. Carter
Published: October 24, 2006
The comic strip by Michael Fry and T. Lewis leaps off the page into CGI life with this DreamWorks suburban fantasy tale. In this adaptation from Directors Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick, viewers are told the tale of how R.J. the raccoon was first introduced to Verne the box turtle and the rest of the family of critters.
R.J. is only doing what comes natural to a raccoon -- scavenging, and being greedy about it. When he hits on the idea to steal the food horde from the hibernating Vincent, a gi-normous bear gruffly voiced by Nick Nolte, he almost gets away with it. But not only is he caught, the entire food cache gets destroyed. Vincent gives R.J. one week to replace the entire inventory... or become part of Vincent's diet!
At the same time, a motley crew of critters are awakening from their own hibernation in the hollow log they share. Verne the box turtle immediately sets about calculating how many days they have until hibernation, as that's the deadline they have for foraging enough food to store away for the big sleep. But things have changed in the woods over the winter -- a housing development has gone up, leaving only a small portion of the woods left untouched. And the housing development is completely surrounded by... a hedge! The animals are terrified and mystified, in an almost "2001" obelisk sense.
And then along comes R.J. Much like "The Music Man"'s Harold Hill, he charms them with the concept of how easy life is going to be now that the humans have come. The humans worship food, and they have far more than they need. Taking it from them will be easy! Of course, what he's really doing is using them as laborers to reclaim what he stole from Vincent. Verne is the only one suspicious of the masked mammal, but once the others have tasted the ambrosia which is processed junk food, there's no turning them back.
But things aren't quite that easy. The humans -- led by their neighborhood association president -- call in The Verminator ("Spider-Man 3"'s Thomas Haden Church) -- to rid themselves of the unwanted pests with extreme prejudice. What's even worse for R.J. is that he finds himself being attacked by a case of conscience, as he starts to like these critters. But will he put his own life and safety ahead of those of his newfound friends, or be true to his own selfish nature and pay off the bear?
The casting for this animated feature is brilliant. Bruce Willis gets to resurrect smartass David Addison in his role of R.J. And who better than Garry Shandling to voice a turtle who's a bit neurotic and resistant to change? Who better than William Shatner to voice an overdramatic actor of an opossum? And who better to play husband and wife porcupines than Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, two professionals who have worked together for so long as to be able to anticipate each other's timing?
The standout performance of the entire film is Steve Carell's interpretation of Hammy, the A.D.D.-afflicted squirrel. This easily-distracted fellow was a real challenge for the animators (as will be seen in the special features) given his constant movement. But when it's time to save the day, R.J. and Verne find a way to harness Hammy's speed to its ultimate effect in an absolutely hilarious scene. All I can say about that scene is... remember how Superman turned back time in his first movie? The scene is nearly topped, however, by a clever riff on "A Streetcar Named Desire", a scene clearly geared toward the more sophisticated and (presumably) older members of the audience.
Animals are 'in da house' as R.J. leads the critters on a little
midnight food raid.
(c) 2006 Dreamworks Pictures
The single DVD comes with a passel of bonus material, beginning with the audio commentary track with directors Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick, who are joined by producer Bonnie Arnold. The disc, when loaded into a DVD-ROM drive, will autolaunch your browser, bringing up three menu choices: Printables, Web Links, and System Requirements. The one you'll care most about is the Printables, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. This lets you print out full-color stickers, stationery, magnets, and tons of other paper projects (provided you have the write kinds of print media loaded into your printer.)
Through your regular DVD viewing machine or software of choice, the main elements of the DVD can be accessed through a vending machine interface. The DreamWorks Kids! option provides access to the cartoon short, "Hammy's Boomerang Adventure" (also available from the main menu, and playable with optional commentary from director Will Finn). In this short, R.J. and the opossum kids leave a boomerang out for Hammy to find, then film the hilarious results. An eleven minute segment gives a step-by-step instruction course so you can "Learn to Draw Hammy", and the "Critter 411" provides some pop-up nature factoids about the real-life versions of the animals you see in the film. The DreamWorks Kids! menu also has some games to be played. The "Backyard Obstacle Course" is a somewhat challenging one, where the viewer has to guide Hammy through the booby-trapped backyard to shut down the system. You have to time some of his moves carefully to avoid the traps. But if you wait too long to tell him what to do... well, you know how Hammy's attention can wander! The "Acorn Toss" is simpler, requiring the pressing of the enter key to play Skee-Ball with an acorn. The problem with this game is that you only ever get one toss, and then you have to restart. This one could have been more entertaining if you could just keep tossing acorns until you were tired.
The "Behind the Hedge" menu features another set of bonuses more appealing to the technically curious. There's a twelve minute segment, "Behind the Hedge" which is the obligatory making-of featurette, beginning with the comic strip. A fifteen-minute "Meet the Cast" spends a little time with each of the actors behind the characters. And in "The Tech of 'Over the Hedge'", coming in at six minutes, we see what new ground was broken in the world of CGI filmmaking to get this project to happen. (Who knew that having characters hug was the bane of CGI programmers' existence?) This menu is also where you will find a three-minute infomercial for Verm-Tech, previews of upcoming DreamWorks projects, and a veritable treasure trove of character design sketches, set designs, and the package designs of all the various food products seen in the movie.
Audio options can be set to English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround, French 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround or Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, with optional subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Previews on this disc include "Flushed Away", "Bee Movie", "Shrek the Third", "Wallace & Gromit", "Antz", "Madagascar", "Charlotte's Web", "Nacho Libre", and "Barnyard".