There has been no shortage of animated talking animals at the theatres in recent years but the mobbed-up penguins of Madagascar, Chicken Little’s paranoia and The Wild’s sarcastic koala mostly make me long for the days of Dr. Dolittle, where our four legged friends didn’t burst into song and the humans got all the funny lines. With the release of Over the Hedge there is, finally, a talking animal movie that didn’t make me long for Penguin Pie, Lion Fricassee or any other carnivorous delight.
The film, based on a long-running comic strip of the same name, gently pokes fun at modern life, satirizing North America’s love affair with conspicuous consumption. The story revolves around a loosely knit family of cute woodland animals—who look like they wandered into frame from a 1940s Disney cartoon—who awaken from their winter hibernation only to find that half their forest has been leveled to make way for a pristine housing development.
Instead of foraging for food in the forest they fall under the spell of a devious raccoon named RJ who convinces them to raid the suburban mansions, bulging with junk food, that lie just over the hedge from their woodland home. The humans don’t react kindly to this merry band of thieves and hire an exterminator to eliminate them.
The satire here isn’t particularly stinging—if you want a real comment on suburbia’s effect on the ecology ask David Suzuki—but it does make the point that North America’s green spaces are quickly being eaten up by suburbs. More to the point the movie stresses the importance of togetherness and family values.
Over the Hedge isn’t a classic like Finding Nemo—which remains the Citizen Kane of computer animated kid’s movies—but it is solid family entertainment. It contains enough amusing action sequences and good voice work from Bruce Willis as the conniving raccoon, Wanda Sykes as a seductive skunk and Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as a pair of hilariously Canadian-accented porcupines to put it a tier above recent lackadaisical animated releases.