Gazette on film
Directors Tim Johnson, whose previous credits include the 1998 film "Antz", and Karey Kirkpatrick, who wrote the screenplay for "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in 2005 have successfully collaborated to produce a memorable animation tale which offers the viewer fun with a message. Typical of many animation films, "Over the Hedge" is meant to be viewed, evaluated, and assimilated on multiple levels.
On the surface, appearing to offer children a playful romp with several colorful and appealing animal creatures, the plot follows the adventures and misadventures of a motley group of personality-plus foragers such as raccoons, opossums, porcupines tortoise-shelled turtle, and a skunk as they struggle to adapt and co-exist with the gradual encroachment of their domain by sprawling suburbia. However, upon closer analysis, it becomes apparent the film has the more serious intention of providing many valuable life lessons for children as well as offering a probing analysis and critique of some of our modern culture's obsessions and foibles.
Adventurous and daring, RJ the raccoon (voice of actor Bruce Willis) finds himself in a quandary when a large hibernating bear awakens prematurely to witness RJ stealing his huge winter stash of food and assorted foraged items. In retaliation, the bear threatens to kill RJ if he fails to replace all of his property in one week at the time of the full moon and sends the message that one must respect the property of others. Obviously in a panic, RJ decides to venture into suburbia and recruit some fellow foragers to help him after he realizes that his task will otherwise be impossible. He soon meets Verne (voice of comedian Gary Shandling), a tortoise shelled turtle who, although naturally reticent and reluctant to take chances, eventually succumbs to RJ's persuasion and joins in the adventure. In addition to opossums and porcupines, Stella, a skunk (voice of comedy star Wanda Sykes) who wears a facade of defiance and aggression as a defense from the rejection she routinely experiences, also joins the group. Since RJ fails to inform his new friends of the possible dangers of venturing "over the hedge" (named "Steve" by the group when they originally believe the hedge to be a living entity), we are reminded of the basic lesson of the Golden Rule--treating others respectfully instead of using them for one's own selfish purposes.
When the group manages to penetrate the enormous hedge which separates the wild area from the new suburban housing development named Camelot, their harrowing escapades and human confrontations are alternately comical and frightening. To survive, the animals must learn lessons of loyalty, the importance of family and the necessity of group cooperation.
"Over the Hedge" also offers both humorous and insightful observations on our modern culture and suburban living. Rigid and uniform rules which are aimed at stifling nonconformity and individuality are rigorously enforced by the female president of the Homeowners Association of Camelot and offer compelling evidence of the downside of suburbia while extreme consumerism and obsession with food are also parodied by RJ and his gang. Modern man's ruthless war of aggression against nature's intruding creatures is also spotlighted when Dwayne the Verminator (voice of actor Thomas Hayden Church) is hired to rid the development of uninvited four-legged guests and proceeds to use inhumane high-tech devices and measures which would outrage animal rights advocates.
The best description of "Over the Hedge" is "animation with a critical edge". It takes perfect aim at modern culture while simultaneously entertaining with a simple tale of animal adventure with a moralistic slant. The combination results in a rewarding experience for the viewer.