It’s nature versus prefab culture in Over the Hedge (2006), the animated adaptation of the Michael Fry and T Lewis newspaper comic strip of woodland buddies confronting the foibles of 21st century life and the absurdities of suburbia.
A wound up Bruce Willis voices the streetwise raccoon RJ, whose schemes collide with the implacable caution of Vern the turtle (Garry Shandling), the paternal leader of a homey clan of woodland creatures who wake up from hibernation to find themselves surrounded by suburbia. What was once their forest foraging grounds is paved over and built up in tract homes by an invading army of “freaky pink primates.” The jokey description is weirdly accurate, as CGI animation leaves them looking less than human and far less animated than the woodland brood.
RJ introduces his captive audience to the joys of chemical enhanced food products and transforms the forest foragers into suburban scavengers, scurrying through the temples of (junk) food on a sugar rush and a caffeine buzz. Suburbia fights back in the form of a paunchy commando exterminator playing out a Rambo fantasy on the critters. Welcome to civilization!
The story is slim and somewhat dubiously built on a confused moral but the script is snappy and the films moves with a fluid rhythm that charges up to a rollercoaster pace, driven by RJ’s patter and junk food high. Best ignore the sloppy message (along with the flavorless songs by Ben Folds) and have fun with the colorful activity and cartoon slapstick, which directors Tim Johnson (Antz) and Karey Kirkpatrick execute with energetic zing, and enjoy the family warmth they create between the gags.
The voice cast also includes Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner (who gets to overplay more than one death scene as he plays possum), Nick Nolte, Thomas Haden Church, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and pop star Avril Lavigne.
The special edition Blu-ray and DVD editions include filmmaker commentary, a bonus animated short, featurettes, and interactive games and activities for kids.