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Hop (2011)
Movie Reviews

Hop (2011)

Despite its vivid animation and bunnies that poop candy, the performances from its all-star cast are far better than the material deserves.

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Hop is no more or less than an innocent, colorful kid’s movie about talking bunnies and candy. If you’re reading this, you’re probably too old for it. How else to explain a movie that quite logically makes Easter Island the center of operations for the holiday of the same name? When the mouth of one of the famous monolithic moai statues opens, an elevator is revealed; at the bottom of the shaft is the entrance to the factory where all Easter candies are manufactured, from chocolate bunnies to marshmallow Peeps to Cadbury Cream Eggs to Hershey Kisses. In the center of this massive underground structure is an ornate fountain, where jelly beans of all colors cascade down like a waterfall. Outside of the imagination of Roald Dahl, you won’t find a better looking candy factory.

I’m forced to wonder, though, the source of all those jelly beans. A scene later in the film shows us that, in addition to the power of speech and the ability to deliver baskets of candy to the children of the world in one night, bunnies from Easter Island can defecate jelly beans. Do you mean to tell me that at the top of the fountain is a multitude of floppy-eared, cotton-tailed creatures with their butts in overdrive? Maybe the bunnies for this job are carrot intolerant. This would not be director Tim Hill’s first stab at overt scatological humor; his previous film, Alvin and the Chipmunks, featured a scene in which Simon, so as to not make Dave angry, picks up Theodore’s accident and puts it in his mouth, pretending it’s a raisin. I’m forced to wonder where Hill will take this next. Thank God Santa delivers toys instead of candy. Then again, where exactly do those toys come from? Do we know for sure that they’re built by elves up at the North Pole?

On Easter Island, we find a teenage rabbit named E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), who doesn’t want to succeed his father (voiced by Hugh Laurie) as the Easter Bunny. Hoping to find success as the drummer of a rock ‘n’ roll band, E.B. runs away to Hollywood, although he quickly learns how tough it can be on your own. Wandering through Los Angeles, he’s almost run over by Fred O’Hare (James Marsden), an unemployed thirty-something slacker who still lives with his parents. After shacking up in a mansion, which Fred is conveniently caretaking in place of his sister (Kaley Cuoco), E.B. goes to audition for David Hasselhoff, who plays a caricature of himself as the host of a reality talent show. Hasselhoff isn’t fazed by a bunny that can talk – his best friend is a talking car. (Note: If you’re under the age of twenty, you’re officially not old enough to get that joke.) As all this is happening, E.B. desperately tries to avoid a trio of ninja-trained bunnies known as the Pink Berets, who have been sent by E.B.’s father. One of them has allergies and uses an inhaler.

I held no interest in this half of the plot, although I did find it kind of charming when Fred decided that he would like to his hand at being the Easter Bunny, if only because he saw E.B.’s father when he was a child. What I enjoyed a lot more was the uprising on Easter Island; a disgruntled chick named Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria), tired of not getting the fair treatment E.B. got simply by being born, rallies all the other chicks and plots a coup d’état. It will ultimately be up to E.B. and Fred to save Easter.

Apart from the shots of the Easter candy factory, I was also impressed with the renderings of the animal characters, especially the bunnies; he may be a computer generated character, but with his puffy cheeks, big eyes, floppy ears, and fluffy tail, E.B. is undeniably adorable. With such effort put into the way he looks, it’s a shame his story wasn’t compelling in the slightest. Okay, so he wants to be drummer – admittedly, he’s very good at what he does – but in stories like this, all teenagers want to be drummers, don’t they? Perhaps I’m looking at this the wrong way. Is the message of the film that following your heart shouldn’t get in the way of taking on responsibility? Perhaps for E.B. For Fred, I’d say the message is that you can have your cake and eat it too. Not very realistic, but then again, nothing about the film is realistic, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

I think what surprised me the most about Hop is that the performances are far better than the material deserves. Brand gives an entertaining vocal performance, as do Laurie and Azaria – for the latter, envision a straight version of his Agador character from “The Birdcage,” and you’ve got it. Marsden plays probably the most likeable slacker in the history of kid’s movies, and he seems to be having a great deal of fun in the process. I think the real issue here is that the movie wasn’t made for me; it was made for those audiences ten and under, who will readily indulge in vivid animation, bright colors, and bunnies that poop candy. I personally think kids would be better served by films such as Mars Needs Moms, but considering how horribly it failed at the box office, perhaps I truly have no idea what I’m saying.

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04/01/2011

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PG

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Universal Pictures

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About the Author: Chris Pandolfi