Combustible Celluloid
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With: James Marsden, Russell Brand (voice), Kaley Cuoco, Hank Azaria (voice), Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, Hugh Laurie (voice), Tiffany Espensen, David Hasselhoff, Chelsea Handler, Dustin Ybarra, Carlease Burke, Veronica Alicino, Django Marsh (voice)
Written by: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch, based on a story by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Directed by: Tim Hill
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild rude humor
Running Time: 95
Date: 03/30/2011

Hop (2011)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Easter Side Story

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Despite a wealth of Christmas movies, Halloween movies, and more than a few Thanksgiving movies, there really aren't that many Easter-themed feature films. I found a ton of made-for-TV specials, and of course, there are a plethora of religious-themed movies about Jesus Christ, but a theatrically released, feature-length film about the Easter bunny and colored eggs and jelly beans? It's an untapped market.

Thus we have Hop, which I'm sad to say isn't all that bad, and isn't all that good. It's as if it knew it had the holiday all sewn up and didn't even bother to try very hard.

It begins in a flashback as the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie) accidentally lets himself be seen by a young human boy. Then, he takes his young son on a tour of the big candy factory and gives him the "someday this will all be yours" speech. The young bunny gets a bit freaked out and grows up to be a rock 'n' roll slacker (voiced by Russell Brand) who would rather play the drums than deliver candy.

On the verge of his first Easter in charge, the young E.B. decides to go to Hollywood, where another young slacker, human Fred O'Hare (James Marsden) runs over him with his car. Fred more or less becomes responsible for the spoiled, clueless bunny; we get the typical scenes in which the bunny ruins Fred's job interview, messes up the house in which Fred is staying, etc. Fred agrees to take him to a talent search hosted by David Hasselhoff (played, interestingly enough, by David Hasselhoff), but in the meantime, Fred realizes that he would like to be the next Easter Bunny.

Back at the factory, an Easter Chick with an attitude, Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria), has decided that he no longer wants to be second in command and, with E.B. out of the way, is able to stage a coup. I must confess that here, the screenwriters had to come up with a way in which E.B.'s drumming could somehow save the day, and they pull it off.

Directed by Tim Hill (Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, Alvin and the Chipmunks), Hop mixes live action and computer animation to nice effect; it all meshes and feels part of the same universe. The movie also includes some dazzlingly colorful sequences in the factory. On the other hand, it doesn't seem very interested in anything other than its "find out who you are and what you want" plot. It really has nothing to say about Easter or bunnies or candy or anything; it doesn't go beyond its rudimentary setup. Rather, it's more interested in cooking up tired slapstick, drawing-room-farce comedy, as well as a few poop jokes (my 5 year-old liked the jelly bean poop joke).

James Marsden, who excelled in things like Hairspray and Enchanted, should have been able to knock this out of the park, but Hill and his three writers clearly don't care about people or characters, and they're not interested in the various unique and funny ways Marsden could have plunged into this cartoon universe.

However, the movie is bright and cheery, and even if it's not entirely smart, it's not exactly stupid either. If parents are looking for a way to pass a holiday afternoon at the movies, they could do much worse, although I look forward to the day when the competition is a bit stiffer.

The Blu-Ray from Universal comes with tons of short, kid-friendly extras, including behind-the-scenes featurettes, games, and other stuff. There's an "all-new mini-movie," Phil's Dance Party, which is cute, but not earth-shattering. The quality is very good, especially in the candy factory sequence.

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