Hop

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Hop

Hop
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

For thousands of years, the Easter Bunny has brought chocolate eggs and jelly beans to countless children around the world. It is time, though, for the big bunny to relinquish the reigns of this critical job to the next in line. E.B. (voice of Russell Brand), though, does not want the prestigious assignment. What he really wants is to go to Hollywood and become a star. He runs away to Tinseltown only to be knocked over by the car driven by fellow slacker Fred (James Marsden). Their worlds are about to collide in unexpected ways in “Hop.”

Robin:
There are four kinds of animated feature films: For kids only, for the family, for kids of all ages and for adults only. “Hop” is a for-the-family film. There are too many gags that are obviously aimed at the parents bringing the kids to see the Easter Bunny movie. The live characters, led by Marsden, are two-dimensional, cartoonish caricatures, giving the animated characters, led by E.B., more substance than the humans.

E.B. makes it known to his dad, the Easter Bunny (voice of Hugh Laurie), that he does not want to follow in his dad’s footsteps. In fact, he wants to be a drummer. As the day draws near to take over the family business, E.B. rebels and leaves Easter Island to pursue his dream. That pursuit is halted, temporarily, when he and Fred, quite literally, run into each other. They become an “Odd Couple” couple with both taking on the Oscar Madison role. E.B., if anything, is even more slovenly than Fred. You just know that, by the end of the film, they will be BFFs.

The first rate combo of live and animated action shows a quantum leap in the technology since the days of “Who Shot Roger Rabbit?” But, “Hop” lacks the clever, cutting humor the producers of the film gave us in one of my favorite animes of 2010, “Despicable Me.” Their latest outing is geared the kids and tolerant parents, not discerning adults. This “save Easter for the world” story only panders to the parents with its few placatory adult-targeted jokes. Things are best, from the kid viewpoint, when we are on Easter Island just before the Big Day. This all-animated side of “Hop” has the requisite bright colors, Rube Goldberg-like candy making machinery and cute little critters that abound, all of which are for the amusement of children.

While E.B. has his adventures above ground, there is intrigue afoot in the candy kingdom. The Easter Bunny’s right hand man, I mean chicken, Carlos (voice of Hank Azaria), has different plans for the successor to the throne. He has worked hard for the Easter Bunny and sees himself as the rightful heir, the Easter Chicken. This palace coup will resound and E.B. realizes that he must save his dad. Azaria’s voicing of Carlos, with Spanish accent, provides much of the humor that will appeal to both parents and children. Other gags, like E.B. pooping jellybeans will appeal only to the kiddos.

I am a for-the-kids-of-all-ages kind of guy (although some of my favorite animated films are the for-adults-only variety and “Hop” is neither. But, that is not to say that the target audience will not like it. I think mom, dad and the kids will have fun. I give it a C+.

Laura:
On Easter Island, bunnies and chicks are on overdrive preparing eggs and candy for the upcoming holiday.  The reigning Easter Bunny (voice of 'House's' Hugh Laurie), one of a long line tapped by the Egg of Destiny, has no idea that his teenaged son E.B. (voice of Russell Brand) has no wish to jump into his paw prints until E.B. flees for Hollywood to become a drummer.  E.B. latches onto an unambitious human, Fred O'Hare (James Marsden, "Hairspray," "Enchanted"), whose dad (Gary Cole, "Office Space," "The Joneses") has thrown him out of the house to get him to stand on his own two feet, but adding E.B. to the mix really makes him "Hop."

As can be inferred from that opening paragraph, the "Horton Hears a Who!" and "Despicable Me" screenwriting team of Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio (joined by Brian Lynch) have fallen off their laurels with "Hop."  Sure "Despicable Me" was derivative, but it had all kinds of inspired spins and gonzo details that delighted.  "Hop" is not only imitative (Santa Claus mythology, the old E.T. in the closet gag, Willy Wonka, yellow minions in the form of chicks and every tale of a teenager who didn't want to follow in his dad's footsteps), it is almost entirely witless.

A prologue narrated by Marsden tells us we will see how he became the first human Easter Bunny, then a flashback shows how, as a young boy, he actually saw the fabled rabbit.  In the present, he still lives at home as an overage layabout (although his very successful sister Sam ('The Big Bang Theory's' Kaley Cuoco) still seems to live there too).  It's unclear how old the character is supposed to be, but clearly Marsden, in his late thirties, is far older than whatever that is.  In the film's first major contrivance, Fred is given the keys to Sam's boss's mansion, as she was supposed to feed his dogs while he's away.  Cue the visual attack dog gag.

On his way there, he hits an animal in the road.  This turns out to be E.B., who, in one of the film's few amusing bits, failed to attain bunny lodging at the Playboy Mansion his first night in L.A. Marsden mugs throughout the film, playing to the second balcony, but his initial reaction to the talking E.B. is beyond the pale - it's a miracle the writers didn't work in Monty Python's killer rabbit to justify this kind of unrestrained horror.  But E.B.'s a manipulative little guy and works his way in.  He's now the 'bad' half of an odd couple destined to ruin Fred's digs and upcoming job interview until the two travel to Easter Island which has been taken over in a coup by head Peep Carlos (voice of 'The Simpsons's' Hank Azaria).

Too many situations crop up just to support plot movement or weak gags.  If the Easter Bunny can travel the world in a sleigh pulled by chicks, why does Rapa Nui need a global underground transport system?  Because the filmmakers needed some way to get E.B. off the island.  Why is the O'Hares's youngest, adopted daughter Alex (Tiffany Espensen, "Fame," "Repo Men"), cast in the lead of her school's Easter extravaganza when she has a horrible voice?  So Fred can crash the party with E.B. as a ventriloquist act.  The film's conclusion would have us believe that the O'Hare père would simply be proud to discover his son's turned into the Easter Bunny - that after Fred's initial horrified reaction to the same situation.

Director Tim Hill, experienced with such mixed live action/animation efforts as "Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks," is successful melding the two, but unfortunately the live action is less realistic than the animation.  It's telling when David Hasselhof is one of the more recognizable real people.

"Hop" is colorful, so may get passing grades from smaller children, but it mistakes frantic hysteria for comedy.  At least it's not in 3D.

D+
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