Over the Hedge: Striking Out to Discover New Grounds in Animation

Over the Hedge combines a unique enough premise with some very strong voice acting to create what is, overall, an excellent film. It’s been heralded as “the greatest animated picture since Shrek,” and while that seem to be a slight bit of an exaggeration, Over The Hedge is definitely a picture worth running out to see, with family in tow.

One of the highlights of this film is the soundtrack, composed and performed by Ben Folds. One has to wonder, after Over the Hedge, Tarzan (Phil Collins), and Curious George (Jack Johnson), if this is the beginning of a trend where popular musicians commandeer a film to create a soundtrack as an independent effort. Given the quality work that’s come out of these two films, let’s hope so. Over The Hedge also has a new version of Ben Folds’ “Rockin’ The Suburbs,” rewritten to be appropriate for kids, but nonetheless socially significant. The song retains enough qualities of the initial version that it will endear the film a bit to the Gen X parents now bringing kids to the film, and it does a beautiful job to reinforce the film’s sly criticisms of bourgeois life.

Ben Folds isn’t the sole musical influence in the film; the voice of the young opossum is none other than Avril Lavigne, who performs her role impressively well and will help the film appeal to the teenage audience that often feels themselves too old for “children’s films.” As the parental porcupines, you’ll find Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, icons of independent film (Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind) and no slouches in either the musical or comedic realms.

In short, this film has something for everyone, whether mainstream or independent, old or young. Add in some truly loveable characters, some characters you love to hate, and a cleverly masked message about the dangers of expanding suburbia and environmental responsibility, and you really do have, all in all, a terrific film. It’s a rare film that can bring the entire family together, but Over the Hedge definitely manages to do just that.

The animation is certainly nothing to sneeze at; Dreamworks has created another brilliant artistic work. Perhaps the greatest hallmark of a Dreamworks film is the ability to create animation with the directorial layout of a live-action film. Characters are framed in very real ways; it’s not merely the three-dimensional artwork that gives a Dreamworks film its allure-the truly impressive thing about their works is that you could go through a film frame by frame and recreate it with actors, and it would come off no less sincere. While an aspect that your everyday viewer won’t realize that they enjoy, this gives the film a very sincere feel, which can help to put the audience at ease and increase the appeal of an animated film.

The only real downside to the film is how two-dimensional some of the characters are. The mean people are mean just because they’re mean, for the most part, and the giant bear that pushes the story along is old, jaded, and grumpy, without any other defining personality characteristics. This will work for the smaller kids but may leave some of the older audience members wishing that we’d gotten a glimpse into the bigger picture.

Over the Hedge doesn’t have the same replay value as either of the Shrek movies, at least not superficially. Kids will love it, certainly, and will want to see it over and over again. As an adult, it may not be the kind of movie that you’ll want to sit down and watch repeatedly, but the film does offer so many different types of humor that it’s one of those rarities that will grow along with your kids.

As they get older, they’ll understand new aspects of it, and perhaps one day the pervasive message about sharing our planet and our lives with our environment and not taking more than we need will sink in with them, making them, ultimately, kinder, gentler, more socially responsible people. Movies based in reality just don’t have the same kind of allure as fairy tales, but when faced with a choice between the fantasy of Shrek and the adorable animals of Over the Hedge, you might find that you truly do have another movie that could be a contender.

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