Over The Hedge

10 out of 10

"Everybody loves a cookie."

Like most people, after enjoying years of animated masterpieces like Disney's "Snow White" and Warner Brother's "Looney Tunes," I am still wary of CGI - a style which seems more suited to Playstation than the big screen. However, "Over the Hedge," like "Monsters Inc.," "Ice Age" and Pixar's "For The Birds," shows that with a good story and some clever humour, CGI pixels can be indeed put to good use.

Based on the syndicated comic by US artists Michael Fry and T. Lewis, the story focuses on the mishaps of a wild raccoon R.J. (Bruce Willis). Arriving in the Midwest, he hopes to find a land plentiful in food, however hindered by an uncooperative vending machine, he moves on heist of the century - the king of all junk food stockpiles - unfortunately belonging to local bear Vincent (Nick Nolte). Foiled by a falling can of Spuddies, RJ is caught by the enraged waking bear, and in a moment surely befitting his DUI photo from 2002, Nolte orders him to replace each item by the next full moon or he will be welcomed as his next meal.

Several shenanigans ensue as R.J. is assisted unknowingly in his quest by a family of forest animals, including their leader Vern the cautious tortoise (voiced Gary Shandling), Stella the Skunk (Wanda Sykes), possums Ozzie (William Shatner) and Heather (Canadian Avril Lavigne) and hedgehogs Lou (Eugene Levy), Penny (Catherine O'Hara), Spike, Quillo and Bucky. Filled with family friendly messages, with R.J.'s help, the small group learns to come to terms with the new housing estate lying beyond a mysterious hedge that has replaced what was once their home.

The most winning aspect of "Over The Hedge" is easily the humor. Directed by Tim Johnson ("Antz"), it took over three years to make and features a witty screenplay by co-director Karey Kirkpatrick (cowriter of "Chicken Run" and "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"), Len Blum ("Pink Panther") and Lorne Cameron and David Hoselton (both of "Brother Bear" and "Catch Me If You Can"). Even with the typical positive moral messages aimed for the younger members of the audience, the irony and off-the-wall nature of the original comic strip is not lost. A fast paced film, it contains entertaining lines, a refreshing plot and biting social commentary. Swapping the traditional roles of the perceptive human unaware animal, RJ and his friends take centre stage as they closely observe their well fed neighbours with humourous results. Falling bears, flying security trucks and Hammy's slow motion laster sequences are sure to charm audiences of all ages and keep you in stitches long after the curtains fall.

Adding to the humor and warm fuzzy story, the performances are also impressive. Particularly notable are the vocal talents of Steve Carell as the innocent, enthusiastic, overly-hyper Hamilton, Iranian comedian Omid Djalili as the olfactory-deprived Persian house cat Tiger and Alison Janney, his villainous owner, the prim and shrill Homeowner's Association president Gladys Sharp.

Overall, a cute, sweet, feelgood treat, it will have you wanting to purchase all the merchandise and DVD after to re-live all of it's humourous 83 minutes over and over.

CGI? - "You have arrived."

Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies