Directed by Tim Hill. Voices by Russell Brand, Hank Azaria, Hugh Laurie. Starring James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, Tiffany Espensen, Chelsea Handler. (2011, PG, 90 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 1, 2011
Some films are saccharine, but Hop is pure sugar. This Easter-themed hybrid of live action and digital animation is a confectioner’s delight (most literally in the case of such companies as Hershey’s and Peeps) and should, perhaps, carry an advance warning to diabetics. Hop posits a world in which the Easter Bunny runs a vibrantly pastel, below-ground, Wonka-esque candy factory staffed by fluffy yellow chicks (the avian kind) on – where else? – Easter Island. That’s just the beginning of a long string of obvious bunny jokes that peak with a voiceover cameo from Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion, that well-known bunny flophouse. Hop moves forward with the same kind of insistent drumbeat that drives the film’s theme song, “I Want Candy.” Brand voices the animated rabbit E.B., the Easter Bunny in training, who aspires to become a famous drummer instead of a magical egg-delivery agent like his father before him. (Curiously, E.B’s dad, who is voiced by Laurie, explains that the Easter Bunny’s lineage goes back 4,000 years, a movie factoid that will come as news to those who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection some 2,000 years ago.) Marsden, as Fred O’Hare, heads up the live-action portion of Hop as a slacker whose disinterest in gainful employment disappoints his parents (the woefully underused Cole and Perkins). Following a meet-cute in which Fred crashes into Hollywood newcomer E.B., the two become a squabbling duo, who eventually develop into friends because of their shared shame in having disappointed their dads with all their self-actualizing nonsense. Marsden competently handles all the necessary green-screen mugging, although if he’s not careful with his casting choices going forth, he’s liable to be next in line for the Brendon Fraser Human Cartoon Award. Director Hill, seemingly, is making a career out of helming these live action/animation hybrids, with Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties on his recent résumé. Also appearing in bits of stunt casting are David Hasselhoff and the Blind Boys of Alabama gospel group. And to its everlasting credit, Hop has the dubious distinction of presenting the best poop joke seen in a kids' movie in a long, long time. Hop is a hodge-podge of a movie in which stretches of dull subplots and narrative stagnation are broken up by an occasional good laugh. After all, with a dearth of noncrucifixion-themed Easter movies out there, what competition does this holiday movie with its cute bunnies and chicks actually face?