Colorful Hop Exceeds Low Expectations
- Friday, April 01, 2011
DVD Release Date: March 23, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: April 1, 2011
Rating: PG (for mild rude humor)
Genre: Live-Action/Animated Family, Comedy
Run Time: 90 min.
Director: Tim Hill
Cast: James Marsden, Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie, Hank Azaria, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, Kaley Cuoco, David Hasselhoff
An Easter Bunny origin story hardly seems like a fresh idea, which makes it odd that we’ve never actually seen one. Technically we still haven’t, because Hop—a purely secular Easter movie—isn’t so much an origin story as it is a passing of the torch (or Egg of Destiny, as the case may be) from one bunny to the next. It’s no classic, mind you, but as light family fare goes Hop pleasantly (if barely) exceeds low expectations.
In this live-action/animated hybrid, the Easter Bunny gets a Santa Claus makeover (apparently the two mythical icons run the same business model). To Kringle’s North Pole, elves, gifts, sleigh and reindeer, the Bunny has Easter Island, chicks, candy, an egg-sleigh and more chicks to match. Each even distributes his goods to children in a one-night round-the-world excursion on the eve prior to their respective holidays.
But as the introduction tells us, this isn’t just the story about the new Easter Bunny; it’s about how the first human assumed the role—destined by his very name, it would seem: Fred O’Hare (James Marsden, Enchanted). Fred is a joyful but aimless man-child who’s still living with his parents as he plods and fails at finding where he fits in life. His family even goes so far as to hold an intervention to tell him he needs to get a job, and a life.
While Fred is disappointing his dad (Gary Cole, Extract), so is the son of the Easter Bunny. After being groomed to take over the family business from his father, young E.B. (yes, he actually goes by those initials) runs away the night before his coronation in pursuit of Hollywood rock-and-roll dreams. The out-of-his-element rabbit crosses paths with the down-on-his-luck slacker, and together they unwittingly help each other toward their destinies even as they mostly want to pull each other’s, er, hair out.
As Fred does his best to try and finally live up to his dad’s expectations, the free-spirited E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand, Despicable Me) carelessly ruins every one of Fred’s opportunities. It’s a construct that easily sets up lots of good-natured slapstick, only briefly resorting to some (inspired, I must admit) scatological humor: E.B. literally poops jellybeans.
Meanwhile back on Easter Island, E.B.’s father (voice of Hugh Laurie, TV’s House, Street Kings)—burdened by the loss of his heir and the impending Easter Sunday—deploys his all-girl-bunny elite special forces unit The Pink Berets to find E.B. and bring him back. Compounding the elder’s troubles, his right-hand chick Carlos (Hank Azaria, TV’s The Simpsons, laying on the Spanish accent comically thick) has plans for a hostile takeover.
Between the slapstick of E.B.’s antics with Fred, Carlos’s over-the-top comic relief, the spy action beats of the Pink Berets and the oversized candyland of Easter Island (populated by cute little chicks and bunnies, no less), the filmmakers do a pretty good job of fleshing out a formulaic narrative with enough fun, charm and visual flair to make it worthwhile.
Other elements—an egg-hiding training montage, singing rock-styled Easter-themed songs for no good reason (i.e. “I Want Candy”), and a flat recurring cameo by David Hasselhoff—are too contrived for their own good and feel all-too-typical for this sort of kiddie flick. Even the emotional through-line of both young “men” proving themselves to their fathers is more forced than developed, with the hugging resolutions popping up almost as “oh, before we forget” warm-fuzzy afterthoughts.
Still, for what Hop lacks in originality it makes up for in high-but-not-annoying energy, bright and colorful imagery (Easter Island HQ is Wonka-esque in its extravagance, with candy raining down through the golden factory’s center), and a lively and talented cast led by James Marsden. While he looks a little too old for what should be a late-20s overgrown adolescent, his beaming smile, genuine purity and comical gifts instantly win you over (and made me wonder why we don’t see more of this versatile leading man), although his live-action counterparts don’t fare as well with stock material.
As the voice of E.B., Russell Brand’s normally obnoxious persona is tweaked into something more sincere while still utilizing his manic sensibilities. Hugh Laurie is a nice fit as the elder Bunny, providing the appropriate mix of stuffiness and warmth, while Hank Azaria’s unleashed approach to the maniacal chick Carlos grows from cute asides early on to an absolute scene-stealer as his revolutionary schemes escalate.
Hop comes from the animation studio that produced Despicable Me and director Tim Hill (SpongeBob SquarePants) of the recent Alvin and the Chipmunks reboot. While it’s not as inventive as the former (in fact, the Easter Island factory steals ideas liberally from Despicable Me's lair), Hop is certainly more charming than the latter and more fun than both. It’s not worthy of becoming an annual holiday viewing tradition (leave that to the perennial Ten Commandments, or even The Sound of Music), but, as fun matinee diversions go, the kids should have a blast.
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: None.
- Language/Profanity: One use of the phrase “Oh my G-d”.
- Sexual Content/Nudity: When E.B. first arrives in Hollywood, he stops by the gate of the Playboy mansion looking for a place to stay. Nothing offensive is shown (it’s just the gate, and Hefner’s recognizable voice on the intercom), but E.B. does explain his presence by saying he heard this is where sexy bunnies live, and that he’s sexy. In another scene, E.B. says to Fred, “Do you want to see other rabbits? I’m open-minded,” but he’s just referring to their friendship; only adults would pick-up on the play-on-words.
- Violence: Just comic mayhem; nothing offensive or visually graphic. Two big dogs attack Fred at one point, but he’s in a protective safety suit and it’s cartoonish in style.
- Other: E.B. poops out jellybeans, and one person unwittingly eats them later. Some may find this too crass; most will probably not.
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