I just saw an advance work-in-progress screening last night of DreamWorks animated film, Over The Hedge and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. As a matter of fact, I was pleasantly delighted by it. Steve Carrell steals the show (as always) as Hammy the squirrel and his character’s got most of the funny bits (particularly one involving caffeine) Imagine an over-caffeinated squirrel! It was just too much.
I would say the quality of animation is good, especially from DreamWorks Animation, who in my opinion lags right behind Disney/Pixar. They could have spent some more time on the human characters but then again we saw it with 80% of the animation completed and I noticed most of the unfinished animation involves the human characters. There are funny bits in it, and most of them are pretty sly commentaries on life in the suburbs (SUVs, lawn care and watching Dr. Phil).
On the other hand, the story isn’t original. Granted it’s based on a comic strip with avid followers, the problem with the film is much like everyone has already stated. It does follow the tried and true formula of the buddy/odd couple movies like Toy Story and Shrek. Everytime the story focused on Verne the Turtle (pitch-perfect Garry Shandling) and his jealousy towards RJ the Racoon (Bruce Willis, who didn’t sound like Bruce Willis), I kept going back to Buzz and Woody. There’s even a scene that’s eerily reminiscent of the Andy’s room scene in the first Toy Story, where Buzz is strapped to the rocket. It follows the formula of many animated movies to a tee.
I’m much more forgiving than most people on here though. I’m hoping that these animators are doing what most great artists do from time to time: variations on a theme.
What makes Over The Hedge better than some of the bad CGI that’s come out lately is that it dabbles in being a solid animated heist/caper movie at the end of the second act, playing to the strengths of the animal characters. Again, the funniest bit throughout the heist sequence involves Hammy the Squirrel and a laser pointer.
This in my opinion is the highlight of the movie a la Ocean’s Eleven. As a matter of fact, they used temp music from Ocean’s Eleven! The Ben Folds songs are pretty good, too.
I brought my little sister to the screening and she loved it. Most of the adults laughed at the bits that were geared towards life in suburbia, but the kids in the audience got a kick out of the whole damn thing. It’s good. It’s no Toy Story, but it’s definitely better than Madagascar.