REVIEW: Hop [2011]

Score: 5/10 | ★ ★

Rating: PG | Runtime: 95 minutes | Release Date: April 1st, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): Tim Hill
Writer(s): Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch / Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio (story)

“See you later. Enjoy your life of privilege.”

What do you get when you mix Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory with The Santa Clause? Why another redundant holiday flick to tickle the kiddies and leave Mom and Dad clueless to the appeal, of course. Between the coronation of a new Easter Bunny, the betrothed having cold feet and a dream of drumming to fame and fortune, and a human forever lambasted for believing he once saw the mythical creature being willing to do anything to become him, you can probably put the pieces together and figure out what will happen in the end without paying much attention, especially since said human spoils the surprise two minutes into the film. Hop is an over-the-top romp with a stylish aesthetic, the hamstrung crutch of being a live action/animation hybrid, unoriginal, and devoid of any lasting impression. The funny thing is that you’d expect just that from a director like Tim Hill—helmer of Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties and Alvin and the Chipmunks—but not from a writer like Tim Hill—he of “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Rocko’s Modern Life” fame. If only the latter had came out to play.

There are moments of absurdity that lend themselves to the unique charm of those cartoons, though, only not enough to take note. It’s a kid’s movie, after all, so any real bite must be removed in lieu of poop jokes—oh yeah, the Easter Bunny poops jelly beans—and saccharine instances of misunderstood children without a clue towards what their future holds. You see, the main crux of the tale rests with parallel plotlines of E.B., the next in line to deliver chocolates and baskets around the world, and Fred, an almost thirty-year old man without any motivation. Call it fate, blind luck, or lazy writing to craft a film capable of making millions of dollars, these two losers—for lack of a better word—cross paths and discover exactly how strong they can be. Through harshly obvious put-downs and thinly veiled barbs to light a fire under their butts, both characters’ fathers have done nothing to help instill positive self-esteem, instead cultivating a need to tread their own path. It just so happens that the end of the road may be exactly where they are supposed to be—but on their own terms.

I’m not quite sure who had the bright idea to get a crass comedian like Russell Brand to do PG—well convicted drug dealer Tim Allen did earn a career making kids laugh by becoming a childhood fantasy mainstay, too—but he somehow pulls it off. Knowing his work does bring baggage along for the ride as I kept waiting for the crude language to burst through. And Brand’s E.B. is manic, extremely ADHD, and selfish to a fault, but between the Disney eyes and his fluffy exterior, you can’t help but find him loveable. A cute little bunny hopping at his father’s coattail (Hugh Laurie), this creature of a new generation is just as rebellious and confused as any human going through today’s change into adulthood. We all want to be kids forever and he does in fact live in a land of candy, (kudos to the use of Easter Island as the holiday’s North Pole, complete with secret entrances through the mouths of Moai statues), so a drive to shirk responsibility and follow a dream is understandable. The question then becomes whether a talking rabbit becoming a Hollywood rock star could ever work. Luckily David Hasselhoff has the kind of eccentricity to say yes, yes it can.

On the flip side of the coin is James Marsden as Fred. A bit too old to be playing this character, the elasticity of his face—odd considering its extreme angularity—and acceptance towards the art of physical comedy’s abuse allows his performance to work. It’s way too hammy for my tastes, but the youngins in the audience ate it up like I’m sure I did when Jim Carrey reinvented the craft twenty years ago. His Fred is naïve, extraordinarily lazy, and somehow completely endearing. He is for all intents and purposes playing a kid who must find his true calling, a kid with enough belief in the magic of imagination to think he could be the first human Easter Bunny. Success in the real world has failed as his parents, (Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins doing snide humorless humbugs like usual), and sisters, (Kaley Cuoco showing her pursed lips can become annoying and Tiffany Espensen asking for a punch to the face for her obnoxious know-it-all), express less faith in him than he has for himself. It’s only when befriending E.B. that he discovers what it means to be part of something larger than him alone and the doors of success finally open.

And while all the sap coming from this surprisingly funny duo is the heart of Hop, the only real redeeming quality of the show comes from the animation and Hank Azaria. I can look past the fact Easter Island is a bright smorgasbord of color that rips off Santa’s Workshop and Wonka’s Factory, I can even forgive the little yellow chicks—elves, slaves, illegal immigrant workers—are blatant copies of Illumination Entertainment’s last film Despicable Me’s minions because the scenes amidst the machinery and furry critters are gorgeous. Besides that environment, however, and the cuteness quotient of the Pink Berets, the most memorable aspect of what’s onscreen is Azaria’s unequaled ability to do hilarious villainy. Voicing the brainless Phil and the maniacal Carlos, the Easter Bunny’s second in command, he proves his range as well as the capabilities of these normally innocuous balls of feathers. Utilizing his broken Spanglish from The Birdcage, Azaria steals the show with Carlos, the conniving, underappreciated worker looking to stage a coup and takeover Easter for the birds. It’s a definite bright spot in an otherwise ho-hum piece of family fluff worth little more than to quiet the kids screaming to go and see it.

[1] In “Hop”, the new live action/CG-animated comedy from the producers of Despicable Me and the director of Alvin and the Chipmunks, E.B. (voiced by RUSSELL BRAND), the teenage son of the Easter Bunny, is on a mission to save Easter. Photo Credit: Rhythm & Hues Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[2] In “Hop”, the new live action/CG-animated comedy from the producers of Despicable Me and the director of Alvin and the Chipmunks, Sam O’Hare (KALEY CUOCO) tells her out-of-work slacker brother, Fred (JAMES MARSDEN), he needs to get his life together. Photo Credit: Jaimie Trueblood Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[3] A scene from “Hop”. Photo Credit: Rhythm & Hues Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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