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Hop (PG)


04/07/11
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



A would-be Easter Bunny thinks his true calling is to be a drummer in Hop, an aggressively dull blend of animation and live action.

E.B. (voice of Russell Brand) is next in line to take over the duties of the Easter Bunny, replacing the current Easter Bunny, his father (voice of Hugh Laurie), who is looking to retire. But E.B. prefers rocking out on his drum set to making and delivering candy. So days before he’s set to make his first-ever candy delivery, he escapes from Easter Island (the place where the bunnies and their factory workers, the chicks, prepare the world’s seasonally decorated jelly beans, chocolate and marshmallows) and heads, like so many kids with stars in their eyes, to Hollywood.

At first, it’s not looking good for him. A trip to Hugh Hefner’s house — he takes in bunnies, according to E.B.’s star map — doesn’t lead to a free place to stay, so E.B. is left wandering the streets of Beverly Hills. Which is where human Fred O’Hare (James Marsden) almost runs over him with a car.

Just as E.B.’s father wants him to straighten up and hop right, Fred’s father (Gary Cole) think Fred needs a little direction. After a year of post-recession-layoff slacking at his parents’ home, Fred is lovingly pushed from the nest by his family — including his mom (Elizabeth Perkins) and much younger sister Alex (Tiffany Espensen). His older sister Sam (Kaley Cuoco) takes pity on him and offers to let him crash at her boss’s house and even hooks him up with what should be the perfect job interview. But then E.B. enters the picture. Fred isn’t quite sure the talking, bipedal rabbit who guilts him into offering a place to crash is real, but Fred offers E.B. some space in the garage — complete with water dish and newspaper — anyway. The next morning, Fred learns that E.B. prefers fancier digs when he follows the trail of half-eaten carrots up the mansion stairs and into the master suite, where E.B. is playing video games (a Guitar Hero-like drums-based game, naturally) and getting comfortable in the Jacuzzi. Fred plans to kick E.B. out, but after explaining that he’s Easter Bunny material (using that pooping-jelly-beans trick from the trailer as proof), E.B. is allowed stay, endangering Fred’s job prospects, his sanity and, though Fred doesn’t yet realize it, the very nature of Easter itself.

The very nature of Easter being, for the purposes of this movie, a basket of candy. We go no further into Easter than bunnies, chicks and pastel confections. Since the Easter Bunny isn’t quite the superstar that, say, Santa Claus is, the movie builds a bit of backstory for him: Easter Island, candy-making, traveling the world in one night in a vaguely Santa’s sleigh-ish egg-shaped contraption pulled by yellow chicks, the handing down of the Easter Bunny responsibilities from one generation to another. But the movie doesn’t really have any fun with it — the Easter Bunny story could have been filled in with all sorts of fun details and clever visual moments, but instead this movie just Easters up some details from Santa. It’s all rather hastily drawn, as is a subplot involving a power-mad chick named Carlos (voice of Hank Azaria) who wants to get out from under the yoke of bunny oppression and be the Easter Bunny — or Easter Chick, I guess — himself. The movie throws this in on top of the twin tales of E.B. and Fred finding themselves and E.B.’s father’s attempts to find him with a trio of bunny commandos called the Pink Berets. It feels like a “when in doubt, more plot” approach to story-telling, one that doesn’t help increase the excitement or the movie’s ability to hold an audience’s interest.

And, wow, did it not hold the interest of the audience at the screening I went to. The fidgeting was intense — wiggling in seats, whining, talking, requests for popcorn or bathroom trips. I heard all the hallmarks of kids not interested in the movie playing in front of them. My stepson sat low in his seat, appearing to slowly melt from boredom as the movie wore on. This movie might start with candy and talking bunnies but it spends a lot of time with an adult man (Marsden) being harangued by his parents for being a loser. The scenes between E.B. and Fred include some moments of goofiness but also a lot more talking — and talking and talking. You could tell which scenes and chunks of dialogue were meant to be funny but they didn’t contain any actual humor.
This movie feels like all the effort was put into the concept and then its creators just hoped it would succeed on the live action/animation blend and the pooping-candy joke. But like those hollow chocolate bunnies, this thin premise just isn’t enough to carry the movie.

D+
Rated PG for mild rude humor. Directed by Tim Hill and written by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch, Hop is an hour and 35 minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures.






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