out of Five
Running time: 86
Brightly animated, frequently hilarious and perfectly cast comedy from the Dreamworks stable – the best of the recent animal-themed cartoon features.
What's it all about?
When greedy raccoon RJ (voiced by Bruce Willis) gets caught stealing the snack stash of a ferocious bear (Nick Nolte), he's given a week to replace it all or become part of the food chain himself. With time running out, the scheming RJ fools a makeshift family of woodland creatures into helping him to steal food from the new and terrifying world of suburbia, which has recently encroached on their once-natural habitat.
RJ's new companions include cautious tortoise Verne (Garry Shandling), hyperactive squirrel Hammy (Steve Carell), sassy skunk Stella (Wanda
Sykes) and a pair of overacting possums (William Shatner and Avril Lavigne). His cunning plan gets off to a great start, but things get complicated when an animal-hating neighbour (Allison Janney) hires a verminator (Thomas Haden Church).
It seems almost redundant to say it these days but the animation is terrific, combining gorgeous, brightly-coloured visuals with superb character work. In addition, directors Johnson and Kirkpatrick maintain a brisk pace, ensuring that the gags come thick and fast.
The film has an impeccable comic cast and the performances are excellent. Willis is definitely the stand-out in the lead role and RJ's fast-talking charm is vaguely reminiscent of his character in Moonlighting. Shandling provides a superb foil to Willis and there's hilarious support from Shatner and Steve Carrell, who gets the biggest laughs as the hyperactive Hammy.
The witty script is extremely well written, throwing in enough adult-oriented humour and references to ensure that adults will love this as much as the kids. It also manages to make subtle points about environmentalism and consumerism without beating you over the head, just as it conveys the usual message about the importance of family without resorting to sickly sentimentalism.
A treat for both adults and children alike. Highly recommended.
Over The Hedge (U)