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Massawyrm Flips OVER THE HEDGE!!

Merrick’s animals talk. They taunt him...

Here’s Massawyrm with a look at OVER THE HEDGE. Can it be true? A non-Pixar CGI movie about anthropomorphic animals that actually, genuinely works? This has Shatner in a that’s a good enough start for me.

Here’s Massa…

Hola all. Massawyrm here.

Anyone remember, oh, say 24 hours ago – when I ranted, screamed and howled bloody murder about Just My Luck? Remember how I said it was an evil tool of consumption, designed to sell a product to little girls while giving them an entirely unwholesome and dangerous message while they were at it? Remember how mad I was that I spent 9 hours trying to get my anger out about it just right?

Well, imagine if you will that God read my review – then decided to apologize. Imagine that he sent me an e-mail today saying “Massa, dude I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. I mean, there was that whole thing with the Miners, and this war and the Sudan…look, I was asleep at the wheel okay? That movie never should have gotten made. But don’t worry. The boys downstairs in Accounting are looking forward to meeting everyone who made the film. It’s taken care of. But just to make things cool, what if I see to it that there’s a good, wholesome family movie that’s actually funny, has a positive message, and hell, just to balance out that whole McFly thing – I’ll make the overriding theme of the film one of anti-rampant consumerism. Would that make us cool?” Well, God didn’t e-mail me today. Instead, he gave me Over the Hedge.

Never have I seen two films so close together that were so diametrically opposed – two films that stood on such opposite ends of the spectrum that the dichotomy was simply mind blowing. Everything so absolutely wrong with Just My Luck is done absolutely right here. I loved the god damned thing. But going in I wasn’t so sure. Dreamworks Animation has a spotty record. Sure they did Shrek. But they also are responsible for Madagascar and Sinbad – the first being tremendously mediocre, the latter being downright terrible. And frankly, Over the Hedge doesn’t really look like much. Just another series of cute animals voiced by big name stars off on (oh dear god, not again) another adventure interacting with civilization. How could it possibly be good?

How? By getting everything right. By focusing on the script and story, by focusing on character humor rather than an unending stream of post modern pop culture references, by developing a theme and ultimately by choosing the absolute right cast to voice it. In other words, by following the Pixar model. Yeah, I said it Pixar. This is Pixar good. Seriously. This film, especially in its second half, evokes definite shades of Toy Story while managing the entire time to be its own beast.

Now its not perfect, but its near perfect. Over the Hedge’s one glaring flaw is that it opens slow and weak. It takes about 5 minutes to set up the premise and once it gets going there isn’t a single plot surprise you don’t see coming from those initial five minutes. What surprises you instead is just how in love you become with every little character and just how funny every character is. The humor here is astonishing, taking its time to build – a few giggles here, a full on laugh there, until the last twenty minutes which are so laugh out loud funny that you just can’t believe this kind of humor can come from a family film. In fact, it’s humor so good, it surpasses anything Pixar has done and actually crosses over into the realm of Animaniacs brand humor. It’s sharp and at times absolutely brilliant, without for a minute getting to the Shrek level of “Is this really appropriate for kids?” It is classic, wholesome shtick done absolutely note perfect.

Steve Carell owns this fucking movie. His character Hamilton “Hammy” The Squirrel starts off as your typical hyperactive, annoying sidekick character (kind of like the worst parts of Roger Rabbit, but on speed) but quickly gets more and more endearing until he actually becomes exactly like the best aspects of Roger Rabbit (on speed.) This is quite possibly the funniest thing Carell has ever done and will no doubt assure him an endless supply of voice work offers for as long as he wants them. There is a moment towards the end of the film that quite literally had me doubled over, laughing for a solid 30 seconds. It was actually the funniest moment I’ve seen on the screen in years. Nothing comes to mind that beats it.

Casting William Shatner as Ozzie the Possum was a stroke of demented geek genius. Here’s a character that has to feign death repeatedly, only to deliver deathbed dialog in Shatner’s classic, stilted (and often exaggerated) style. Every moment of this made my geek heart giggle with glee. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara serve to ground the cast by doing their classic SCTV mid-westerners riffs, and while not given the chance to deliver tons of laughs, add a perfect balance and will make any old school SCTV fan smile ear to ear. Hell, Wanda Sykes, a woman with one trick in her book, even manages to strike just the right tone to make her routine feel fresh and as funny as ever. Thomas Hayden Church as the exterminator, West Wing goddess Allison Janney as the uptight Home Owners association president, Nick “Aw Hell, God damnit Chewbacca” Nolte as Vincent the Bear, even punk-pop princess Avril Lavigne are all perfectly cast and nail every second they’re given to play around. In fact the only people who don’t SHINE are the stars, Bruce Willis and Gary Shandling, who both do great jobs, but have characters that just aren’t given material half as funny as everyone else around them. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great – but their characters serve more as the meat of the film while everyone else brings the funny.

But my absolute favorite thing about this film is the theme. It is blatantly anti-consumerist. There is one string of jokes that gives us an animals-eye view of modern suburbia that is one of the most telling, concise, sharply written pieces of satire I’ve seen in a long while. And yet, it manages to avoid ever being preachy. Of course, this leads to my biggest complaint about the film, which oddly enough has nothing to do with the film itself. It’s how the film is being marketed. You see, someone needs to actually show the film to the marketing department, because I’m convinced they haven’t seen it. Here we have a film entirely about the excessive consumption of modern America versus the simple pleasures of family and friends…and it’s being cross promoted in conjunction with…Wal-Mart. Yes, the consumer Mecca itself. It’s like saying “Now that you’ve enjoyed this fine film about the ills of excess, why don’t you head on down to Wal-Mart and buy yourself something nice.” No, Wal-Mart never appears in the film, but the film is ALL OVER Wal-Mart. I’ve been seeing signage and advertisements there for some two months now…and having seen the film, well, it struck me as a little hypocritical. Someone didn’t do their homework, and this film is too good to get bent over by something as ridiculous as this.

But really, this is a damn fine film. Easily the best American animated film since The Incredibles, this certainly raises the bar over at Dreamworks, giving them a whole new model to work with. Classic humor, classic storytelling. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys family films or animated fare. This one just may earn a place on my top 10 list this year.

Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.


OH! PLANT! PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT, PLANT! PLANT! This movie couldn't really be good, could it? It must be a plant! E-mail Massawyrm here and he'll be happy to tell you where to stick that line of logic.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 11, 2006, 8:59 a.m. CST

    Still don't feel like seeing this

    by PietjePuk

    How many CGI cute animal movies does this make, 45? and FIRST!

  • May 11, 2006, 9:04 a.m. CST


    by Mahaloth

    Good to hear it is a good movie. Steve Carell has the Midas touch lately.

  • May 11, 2006, 9:11 a.m. CST

    It would be nice to see a good non-Pixar animated film

    by Toxic Frog

    I guess I'll check this one out.

  • May 11, 2006, 9:16 a.m. CST

    Mass, great opening. Made me laugh.

    by beastie

    I'll be taking my 2-year old to this once the crowds die down.

  • May 11, 2006, 9:16 a.m. CST

    Looks incredibly dull and preachy anyway.

    by ExcaliburFfolkes

    Like we really need another mass consumption anti-consumer film. And how can it be both, "surpasses anything Pixar has done", and only, "the best American animated film since The Incredibles"? Sounds like you're hedging your bet by backtracking at the end.

  • May 11, 2006, 9:38 a.m. CST

    I hope this is true

    by TheFount

    It doesn't look all that great, but I would love for this to be another surprisingly fun animated film. (I felt that way about the Emperor's New Groove: Looked bad, but when I watched it, I really liked it.) Glad he pointed out the hypocrisy of the Wal-Mart tie-in. Oh and by the way: "The boys down in accounting..." That was genius. Nice one Mass.

  • May 11, 2006, 9:40 a.m. CST

    they'd be preaching to the choir

    by chiahead

    If they didn't market it with the Wal-Mart whores of the country.

  • May 11, 2006, 9:40 a.m. CST

    Stephen Colbert

    by isildur29

    said this movie is a blueprint for illegal immigrants getting into our country. The Hedge is the border fence and the hotdogs are all the lawn care jobs those "cute little immigrants" want.

  • May 11, 2006, 9:45 a.m. CST

    Wallmart is not bad

    by stvnhthr

    Apparently Massawyrm you shop there. I think the message the movie is conveying is family and friends are more important than consumerism, not that consumerism is evil. It is about putting your priorities in order. At least I hope so, and that seems to be what the press junket by the comic strip writers is reporting.

  • May 11, 2006, 9:54 a.m. CST

    See, now that's how the comic strip is

    by Terry_1978

    That type of satirical humor focusing on animals seeing us as we really are. If what Mass says is indeed true, then I may have to give it a glance if they kept it that faithful to the comic.

  • May 11, 2006, 9:58 a.m. CST

    Looks tragic

    by Tremor

    Face it, Dreamworks haven't made a decent animated film since... They haven't made a decent animated film. They were responsible for opening the flood gates and allowing all the other studios to form their own animation division? And why? Because CG sells. It has nothing to do with the story or characters. Why do you think all these studios stopped makin traditionally animated films? Because they didnt't have the talent then and they don't have it now. The only difference is, now they can package it in a nice bright 3d world safe in the knowledge that kids will lap it up. And comparing Over The Hedge to Toy Story is just blasphemous.

  • May 11, 2006, 10:08 a.m. CST

    I think this is going to do better then "Cars"

    by BigTuna

    Yes, I don't think Cars will be good, or bring em' in like most.

  • May 11, 2006, 10:09 a.m. CST

    "Steve Carell has the Midas touch lately..."

    by I Own You

    Well, Carell has been doing the same thing for years, it's just taken the rest of us to catch up with him. My fondest hope now is that he doesn't go the route of Robin Williams and other comedians who start to take themseleves too seriously and then hope to recapture their lost glory by doing sad caricature of their past selves when they were hungry and working their way up.

  • May 11, 2006, 10:12 a.m. CST

    The kids have been begging to see this...

    by Big Bad Clone

    but they also begged to see The Wild and after seeing Madagascar, I sure as hell wasn't going to take them. This one... well The Shatner dying over and over part makes it very tempting...

  • May 11, 2006, 10:12 a.m. CST

    He never said it surpasses anything Pixar has done...

    by BigTuna

    He said it's "Pixar Good".

  • May 11, 2006, 10:22 a.m. CST

    Those were both direct quotes taken from his review.

    by ExcaliburFfolkes

    I didn't make them up. I was simply pointing out that he contradicted himself. If Massawyrm feels that this movie is better than anything Pixar has done, that's fine it's his opinion, but he can't then turn around and say The Incredibles is a better film, since Pixar made it and he's already discounted all Pixar films.

  • May 11, 2006, 10:28 a.m. CST

    sildur29 that was hilarious

    by andrew coleman

    Thank you for posting that because now I'll never see this movie the same way. That was funny. Anyway I'm thinking this will maybe not be better than Cars but do better than Cars. Simply because it doesn't have Larry the Cable Guy in it, who should be kicked in the balls by the way.

  • May 11, 2006, 10:44 a.m. CST

    He was talking about the humour in the film...

    by BigTuna

    You're using quotes, but not understanding the context in which he was saying. He thought it's comedy was funnier then any Pixar film, and that's only one part of it. Earlier in his review, he says it's "Pixar Good", meaning on the level of a Pixar film.

  • May 11, 2006, 11:03 a.m. CST

    Shatner and starf*ckers and pop culture

    by Rupee88

    Who cares if a bunch of celebs do the voices for these characters? You can see them in their own crappy TV shows and movies. People are are addicted to pop culture are pathetic. I'd prefer a movie with unique characters and unique voices. I guess the celebs put (dumb)asses in seats, but they take away from the film and the characters.

  • May 11, 2006, 11:12 a.m. CST

    its true!

    by JoeyRusso1290

    It actually isn't bad, I saw it last night. I can't post my review until next thursday though, but I will tell you it is light years ahead of crap like Madagascar

  • May 11, 2006, 11:38 a.m. CST

    Marketing People Have No Clue -- Remember "The Grinch"?

    by filker-tom

    I hate that frickin' film forever, because [1] the WRITERS got it wrong, by having Whoville's populace saying "Boo hoo!" and [2] because a story specifically about de-commercializing Christmas had more green-colored shit in the stores than the Hulk did later, including the same Dr. Forrester-coat-colored Oreo creme. I genuinely didn't expect this film to be any different, as the beancounters Must Have Their Blockbuster, but I do hope the film is as good as Massawyrm says. I'm a big fan of the strip, and the previews have been great.

  • May 11, 2006, 12:12 p.m. CST

    i'm going to see this but only because avril is in it.

    by McLuvin

    seriously. i think she's the most beautiful person to be in mainstream media in the last 100 years.

  • May 11, 2006, 12:21 p.m. CST

    Hollywood? Hypocritical?? NO?!!

    by Blue_Demon


  • May 11, 2006, 12:29 p.m. CST

    All Righty Then

    by Evil Chicken

    That's good enough for me; I'm there with the kids for this one. Well written article, too.

  • May 11, 2006, 12:37 p.m. CST

    this does look better than cars

    by teddanson37

    with a plot like that of "talking animals" vs that of "talking cars" 9 times out of 10 the animals are gonna take home the gold. of course we all know cute little woodland creatures beat out large gas burning vehicles in any arena...except in the real world. here they just get their cute little brains splattered on the pavement.

  • May 11, 2006, 12:45 p.m. CST

    You know what this reminds me of?

    by loodabagel

    Sounds a lot like Massawyrm's Shaggy Dog review.

  • May 11, 2006, 12:57 p.m. CST

    Comedy that transcends definition

    by TheFount

    If you will allow me to quote McLuvin: "i'm going to see this but only because avril is in it. seriously. i think she's the most beautiful person to be in mainstream media in the last 100 years." Ah, McLuvin. That made me laugh so hard it brought a tear to me eye. You deserve your own TV show.

  • May 11, 2006, 1:27 p.m. CST

    Don't knock it till you try it

    by Henry Jones Jr.

    What's up with the heckling Avril? Like you wouldn't play in her hedge if you had the chance.

  • May 11, 2006, 1:27 p.m. CST

    "Sure, they did SHREK"

    by beamish13

    That tugid crap is something to be PROUD of? There's only one funny scene in the entire film (the inflatable animals in the woods)

  • May 11, 2006, 2:35 p.m. CST

    best voice acting by Carell?

    by TodayzSpecial

    I think not. He's Gary in the ambiguously gay duo. That's his best work.

  • May 11, 2006, 3 p.m. CST


    by Massawyrm 1

    BigTuna is correct. I said it was Funnier than a Pixar film, but ultimately it doesn't have the raw, nigh tear jerrking heart of a Pixar film. It's close on that count, but not quite there. But as its funnier, I *myself* probably will watch this more than the other Pixar films (aside from The Incredibles - which I put up there with The Iron Giant), but I can't just say it's BETTER than Pixar. Just funnier. - And to the guy who called me out on Wal-Mart. Yeah, I shop there on occasion. Where else can you get a Power Saw, a lawn chair, a Thundercats poster, Thumbtacks and Condoms at 3 in the morning. No, I don't want to tell you what I'm doing with those things...but trust me. I needed them. A 3 in the morning.

  • May 11, 2006, 3:05 p.m. CST

    the problem is

    by Cedar_Room

    I am not a child, nor do I have children nor do I have any child relatives I can borrow - so how do I attend a child-orientated animated film without being chased from the cinema by pitchfork-wealding locals before being hanged from a tree with the sign "Paedo Scum" fastened to my scrotum-less groin?

  • May 11, 2006, 3:08 p.m. CST


    by Massawyrm 1

    You do what I usually do. Go to the 10 O' Clock show.

  • May 11, 2006, 3:24 p.m. CST

    Exactly how old are you, Cedar?

    by Terry_1978

    I go to animated flicks that I have an interest in all the time on my own, as most of the guys I chill with aren't exactly fans of the genre. Then again, I'm 28 but look 16, so I guess it's a moot point.

  • May 11, 2006, 3:30 p.m. CST

    Ok, I retract the last two lines of my original post.

    by ExcaliburFfolkes

    And all of my second one. My apologies to Massawyrm (thanks for the clarification) and to BigTuna.

  • May 11, 2006, 3:46 p.m. CST

    Ok, how do we know this isn't a fake review?

    by chrth

    I want a disclaimer on this one too! (jk massa)

  • May 11, 2006, 4:06 p.m. CST

    there is something deeply insidious about attending

    by Cedar_Room

    the 10 o'clock showing of a children's film, if anything this will make people even more suspicious of my motives. Of course, I could always just wait until it comes out at Blockbusters...

  • May 11, 2006, 5:28 p.m. CST

    ceder room

    by moondoggy2u

    I was thinking the same thing. Never watch a midnight screening of The little Mermaid. That's all I should have to tell you guys, thats all I should have to tell you...

  • May 11, 2006, 6:27 p.m. CST

    Said already? Probably. Care? No.

    by ILK


  • May 11, 2006, 9:19 p.m. CST

    Heard NOTHING bad about this so far, could it be great?

    by performingmonkey

    I'll admit, when I first saw the trailer I thought there was SOMETHING about it, and then I heard that Shatner and Lavigne were playing father and daughter and thought 'that's so fucked up it has to work'. It certainly looks better than Madagascar.

  • May 11, 2006, 11:09 p.m. CST

    I'll check it out.

    by CatVutt

    Even though I'm prejudiced against the rash of thrown-together CGI flicks with talking animals and 'hilarious' pop-culture references posing as wit. Why? Cuz the source material is actually a fairly amusing little comic strip, for which I admit to having a bit of a soft spot. So I'm hoping it's just case of bad timing, and this is at least fairly decent.

  • May 12, 2006, 12:33 a.m. CST

    calling you out

    by ILK

    "Where else can you get a Power Saw, a lawn chair, a Thundercats poster, Thumbtacks and Condoms at 3 in the morning." My basement. Or rather my mom's. If I stay there is it half mine? And I don't have to ask. The lawnchair is to catch your body because sometimes when you're holding the thundercats poster up with one hand the thumbtacks get all "pointy" in a bad way and you could lose your balance. By the way, blenders give you the same (or better) vibration but with less than half the danger. Good for you with the condoms, too. I usually skip that step. How I roll.

  • May 12, 2006, 2:19 a.m. CST

    Massawyrm - question...

    by Fish Tank

    Are you _sure_ Willis is god in this? ALL the clips I have seen suggest his performance is him _literally_ just reading his lines. They all seem just dead to me ;-/

  • May 12, 2006, 2:20 a.m. CST

    I meant "good".

    by Fish Tank

  • May 12, 2006, 12:33 p.m. CST

    haha cedarboy i get the point

    by white owl

    i was interested in checking out brokeback mountain to see what all the hullabaloo was about.. but i was afraid if I went and saw it alone I'd be executed mathew parker-style nawmean? had to 'hire' a girl to go with me, in a sense of the word..

  • May 12, 2006, 4:52 p.m. CST

    What no pop culture refs in the film? Is it possible?

    by Doc_Strange

    Dreamworks hasn't been one to go timeless on us. Maybe they finally realize that in 20 years no one's going to think Shrek or Madagascar is funny. Shrek 2 is totally unwatchable due to the fact that the movie is one big piece of pop culture shit.

  • May 13, 2006, 8:22 a.m. CST

    doc_strange, you are so right..

    by jig98

    the non-stop pop culture shit and some of the jokes falling flat and the embarassing musical numbers were the reasons i didn't think shrek 2 was as good as the 1st one. hopefully the 3rd one next year will make up for it. and madagascar was marginally entertaining.

  • May 13, 2006, 4:24 p.m. CST

    "the funniest thing Carell has ever done"

    by MaulRat

    That's a big call...

  • May 16, 2006, 2:41 a.m. CST

    Sinbad was a great movie.

    by Lenny Nero

    I get a lot of flak for it, and I know I'm in the minority, but I thought it was a great, old-fashioned adventure movie with great animation. Long live 2-D, bastards.