Running Time: 85 minutes.
Rated: Rated G.
Based on the US comic strip of the same name, Over The Hedge is the story of R.J. (Willis) a con-artist raccoon. When R.J. is caught stealing from Vincent the bear's (Nolte) hibernation stash he has a week to replace the bear's goods, or be the bear's dinner.
R.J. heads off to the local forest and befriends Verne (Shandling), a turtle who is the leader of small menagerie of animals. There is Hammy, a hyperactive squirrel (Steve Carell), Stella, voluptuous skunk (Wanda Sykes), Ozzie, a death fearing possum (William Shatner) and Penny and Lou momma and poppa porcupine Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy). While they have been hibernating a local community has surrounded their forest. The forest animals are terrified. R.J. sees a treasure trove of goods to steal from his unsuspecting new neighbours. He also has an army of unknowing volunteers to help him.
Over the hedge, however, the neighbours are getting wise. Gladys, the president of the local homeowners' association, (Allison Janney) hires "The Verminator' (Thomas Haden Church) to eradicate the animal guerilla army.
This is a wonderful animation film, one that parents can take the children to and enjoy themselves at the same time. It is the sort of work Pixar used to do before they started to lose their way with The Incredibles and Cars. And as good as Shrek and Shrek 2 were, it is not as crude as those films were in parts.
The reasons for that is Karey Kirkpatrick, Michael Fry and T. Lewis have written a script with multiple layers of meaning and resonance. There are many entry points to this fine film. The youngest kids will like the talking animals. Older children will enjoy the drama. Adults will notice all the social and political issues touched on and gently explored throughout its appropriate 83 minutes.
The hedge could be Israel's wall or the USA border with Mexico. There are excellent environmental messages about refuse and recycling, and the cult of desire. "For humans,' RJ proclaims, "enough is never enough.' There are some good themes, too, on obesity and a good diet. But none of this is force-fed or too overt. Viewers who like to connect the dots between films and real life will have a field day with this film.
Over the Hedge is a sophisticated piece of entertainment in regard to identity, community and belonging. Its star-studded cast bring their interesting characters to life with verve.
For family entertainment at any time of year, I cannot recommend it too highly.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film office.