Critters, don’t get sucked into the suburban trance |

Critters, don’t get sucked into the suburban trance

SHAUNA FARNELLspecial to the daily

Bruce Willis makes a good conspiring raccoon, Nick Nolte has the perfect voice for a grizzly bear, and “Over the Hedge,” while lacking the continuous, laugh-out-loud cleverness of “Shrek” and “The Incredibles,” is lightly amusing and occasionally witty. The animation is brilliant, but the story line and characters are a bit sappy and weak, a characteristic one might normally overlook in a kids film. Along the lines of “Ice Age,” “Over the Hedge” is something of a message movie for adults and children alike but never really devotes itself to either audience. The sappiness sucked away some force from the wagging finger presumably scolding Americans for their overconsumption. Derived from the comic strip of the same name, “Over the Hedge” tells the story of R.J. (Willis), a raccoon who lives an independent, self-sufficient existence plagued with a touch of greediness. When he can’t get a bag of chips from a vending machine, he sneaks up to the den of Vincent the slumbering bear (Nolte), planning to swipe a bag of the first snack he sees. But when his eyes fall upon an entire red wagon loaded down with junk food, he can’t resist. Careful as he’s trying to be in his excitement, an untimely creak during his stealthy exit wakes up Vincent, and R.J. is caught with his hand in the cookie jar. In his fear and frantic escape, R.J. knocks the wagon off a cliff. It falls into the street and is run over by a truck, rendering all of the hydrogenated snacks into salty and sugary dust. Vincent threatens to kill R.J. if he doesn’t replace the stash within a week, and thus R.J. sets out to find some reliable foragers.It’s not long before R.J. comes across a pack of critters recently emerged from hibernation and befuddled by a large hedge that has appeared in the forest over the winter. Much to the frustration of critter leader Verne the turtle (Gary Shandling), R.J. quickly recruits the group to discover and pilfer the huge suburban neighborhood that lies on the other side of the hedge under the guise of helping them fill their log for next winter.The critters rapidly learn that twigs and bark don’t taste half as good as nacho cheese Doritos or Chips Ahoy, and games like hide and seek aren’t nearly as intriguing as a Game Boy car chase or cable TV. The parallel to the common lifestyle of middle-class Americans gets a bit warped when the consequence of such suburban brainwash becomes the danger of the critters being fried by an exterminator’s elaborate laser system and other lawn-strewn booby traps.The message sort of fizzles out in the end. I was left wondering why, save avoidance of the deadly laser and of angering the cell-phone-wielding suburbanites, collecting nuts is better than stealing salty snacks from the human neighborhood.”Over the Hedge” is a good idea and pretty fun, but the force of the message gets lost in the bush.Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 748-2936 or

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