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Movie Review: ‘Hop’

April 1, 2011
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I can’t imagine going to this movie if you didn’t have young children and actually enjoying it, though the kids will be delighted by this thinly veiled rehash of The Santa Clause. I’m surprised that it took this long for someone to capitalize on the Easter holiday. After all, we have a glut of secular Christmas films made for children.

Now Easter gets its very own retelling, giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the Easter factory, which is naturally tucked away on Easter Island. In lieu of elves, fluffy yellow chicks supervise the factory that produces all of the Easter candy that will eventually end up in Easter baskets. The factory gives Willy Wonka a real run for his money, and the opening sequence of the interior is one of the best visuals of the entire film. My kids were drooling from the get-go.

The grand master of the holiday, the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie), delivers his baskets in an egg “sleigh” that is pulled by a battalion of the adorable little chicks. He’s grooming his son E.B. (Russell Brand) to take over the duties of the day, but E.B.’s real dream is to become a drummer. When it is time for his dad to pass the torch (actually, an egg scepter), E.B. runs away to Hollywood.

He is promptly hit by a car driven by unemployed 23-year-old Fred (played by 38 year old James Marsden), who lives with his parents, and has just endured a humiliating “intervention” about his lack of direction in life.  Fred is on his way to house sit for his sister’s wealthy boss, and after getting over the initial shock that this bunny talks (the fact that he is fully clothed doesn’t seem to be unusual), Fred is guilted into letting E.B. stay at the mansion with him.

E.B. starts to realize his dream of being a musician when he auditions for a David Hasselhoff talent show and dazzles the Hoff with his skills. The Hoff (playing himself) doesn’t so much as bat an eye over the fact that this is a talking, drumming rabbit.  No doubt we are supposed to giggle over this sad reference to Hasselhoff’s drunken escapades.

Meanwhile, Fred has decided that it is his destiny to become the Easter representative, since E.B. has no interest. Seems Fred caught a gander of the real Easter Bunny when he was just a wee lass, and has been obsessed with that vision his entire life. E.B. happily complies. However, when the two find out that E.B.’s father is in danger and the holiday is in jeopardy of being sabotaged by a power-hungry chick, the two scamper back to save the day.  The ending is predictable and uninspired.

Despite being far too old for the role of Fred, Marsden makes the role work. He captures the boyish charm and wonder of his character just fine. Kaley Cuoco (the Big Bang Theory) plays his sister, and Elizabeth Perkins and Gary Cole play his parents.

Hop is an odd mix of CGI, animation, and live action.  I suppose it looks as good as it can under these circumstances. The bunny E.B. is as cute as can be, though it is disarming to have him voiced by raunchy comedian Russell Brand.  Director Tim Hill (Alvin and the Chipmunks) obviously tries to throw a few bones, err eggs, to the adults in the audience.

In addition to Brand, Chelsea Handler appears in a bit role, the Playboy Mansion makes a puzzling appearance, and let’s face it, our kids don’t know who David Hasselhoff is. That is purely for the benefit of the adults. There’s even a joke about Knight Rider.

Hill should have just stuck to what he knows best–kids.  The few morsels tossed our way aren’t enough to captivate the adult audience. Although the film was only 90 minutes or so, I kept checking my watch. This is a film you tolerate because your kids want to see it. The kids in my screening were laughing, clapping, and jumping up in the aisles and dancing whenever a pop song they recognized boomed in the background.

Yep, Hill knows kids, and I know that when this comes out on DVD our house will have it on heavy rotation, just like Alvin and the Chipmunks. This film is not necessarily for the kid in all of us, but for those under 10 it should suffice.

Rating 3/5  Hop is rated PG. Directed by Tim Hill. Starring Hugh Laurie, Russell Brand, James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Hank Azaria, Elizabeth Perkins, and Gary Cole.

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