April 8, 2011

Movie Review: 'Hop' a bunny tale in need of a swift kick

The best one can say for 'Hop' is that it adheres to that Hippocratic oath of children's entertainment – 'First, do no harm.'

By ROGER MOORE McClatchy Newspapers

"Hop" is a chip off the old munk -- as in "Alvin and the Chipmunks." Like the Alvin movies, it has critters interacting with real people. The critter in question -- a bunny -- is all about music, just like the chipmunks.

click image to enlarge

The Easter bunny, voiced by Russell Brand, marches to the beat of a different drummer in "Hop."

Universal Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW

"HOP," starring James Marsden, Elizabeth Perkins and David Hasselhoff, with the voices of Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie and Hank Azaria. Directed by Tim Hill. Rated PG for mild rude humor. Running time: 1:33

And like the last chipmunk picture, about the best one can say for "Hop" is that it adheres to that Hippocratic oath of children's entertainment -- "First, do no harm."

The latest semi-toon from the creators of "Despicable Me" features an adorably animated and lifelike Easter bunny and a somewhat less animated James Marsden, the hilarious prince from "Enchanted." The bunny (voiced by Russell Brand) bangs away his days on Easter Island (literally), a rodent wrapped up in his drum kit. E.B. wants to be a rock star.

But Dad (voiced by Hugh Laurie) isn't having it. It's Junior's turn to take over the family business. "We can't make any mistakes. The whole WORLD is counting on us," the father counsels. The kid, growing up in a vast factory where the eggs, chocolate bunnies and candies are made, rebels. He runs away from home to Hollywood.

That's where he runs afoul of Fred O'Hare (get it?), a 30ish slacker still living with Mom (Elizabeth Perkins) and Dad (Gary Cole). Fred hits the rabbit with his car and takes him in out of guilt. It doesn't take long for Fred to get over the novelty of this new pest in his life.

"So what? So you talk and poop candy."

Yes, E.B.'s "pellets" are jelly beans.

Fred has to help E.B. find his way to Hollywood heavyweight David Hasselhoff. "Hoff knows talent," don't you know. And E.B. has to help Fred find his purpose, his "destiny."

All well and good. But would it kill a writer or three to find a couple of laughs in all this? You've got Hugh Laurie and Russell Brand and you can't give them a couple dozen zingers to make this thing move along? Why cast the hilarious Elizabeth Perkins and the reliably deadpan Gary Cole ("The Brady Bunch Movie") if there's nothing funny for them to do?

In the best exchange, Fred worries that the rabbit is in pain and the rabbit worries Fred will drive off and hit something else.

"You want some baby aspirin?"

"Oh noooo. SAVE it. You might want to run over a baby later!"

Only Hank Azaria, vamping it up as the head Easter chick in charge, a megalomaniac named "Carlos" with an Azarian-Mexican accent, lands consistent laughs.

The slapstick is mild-mannered; there's no romance, not a hint of emotion. The best gag might be the one before the opening credits. The Universal globe logo is shaped like an egg. Director Tim Hill (he helmed the first "Chipmunks" movie, shockingly) is all wrapped up in the "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" scenes -- the egg-shaped Easter bunny sleigh (pulled by chicks) and making sure the rabbit looks at home behind a drum kit. When E.B. jams with The Blind Boys of Alabama, you will believe a rabbit can keep a beat.

But even for a kids' movie in the post-"Yogi Bear"/"Marmaduke" marketplace, even for a critter comedy where the critter has very big feet, "Hop" stands out as particularly flat-footed.

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