“Cute” is one of the words to describe this movie. Over the Hedge is loaded with adorable animals, the funniest jokes, and genuine intent. Its charm and identity are centered around its originality, which sadly gets overlooked because of its Oscar-nominated contenders. Revisiting this film as a grown-up, I realized how much Over the Hedge subverts a lot of cinematic tropes and just how hungry it made me feel.
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The Movie Review
The story is focused on animals waking up after hibernation to find out their habitat has been bordered by a large hedge, separating the forest from the suburbs. A raccoon con artist, RJ, tries to steal snacks from a sleeping bear. All fails when the bear wakes up and sees that his stock is ruined. Now RJ has to replace the food OR become the food! To make ends meet, RJ manipulates a neurotic turtle, a hyperactive squirrel, a sassy skunk, and porcupine-opossum families into trespassing the borders and stockpiling human food before winter comes.
DreamWorks Animation thrived in the early 2000s, coming out with award-winning films such as Shrek, Chicken Run, and Shark Tale. What separates DreamWorks from Disney is that their films gravitate more towards being enjoyable for the entire family than toddlers. If a child wants to see a movie 100 times, how much should an adult endure? Over the Hedge (2006) unabashedly adds jokes that mature audiences will find funny, taking jabs at upper-class living and hyper-consumerism. Because it’s in the perspective of animals, it often makes humans the butt of the joke.
There is no other movie that juggles three iconic villains the way this movie does. One of them is named Gladys Sharp, who embodies the Karen internet lexicon. Alongside her is the Verminator, an exterminator who steals the show whenever he appears and takes the word “sniffing around” to its literal extreme.
The duo shares great chemistry, and it comes as a surprise when we’re so used to seeing two villains fight each other for the spotlight. Much of the tension in the story is created by an evil presence outside the human world – Vincent the Bear. RJ and his friends have to supply a hungry bear with enough food for the season. That pushes them not to hide in the safety of the forest, especially with empty stomachs.
The comedic timing is impeccable, and the pop culture references don’t feel forced. But overall the film relies on original slapstick comedy, taking us by surprise when we least expect it. From the writing, the voice acting to the jokes, everything feels natural. It wasn’t until the credits I found that one of the opossums was voiced by Avril Lavigne.
Their attention to detail is worth noting, the humans are always shown in the perspective of the animals, who we see as towering giants. The color palette is much more muted and softer than other films, and the animals here take a slightly realistic form.
Their fuzziness makes them look so cuddly, which is what the entire film feels like. The soundtrack also feels good, some of it originally written by Ben Folds. On top of that, the film shares a good message about family, honesty, and how humans take a lot of resources from animals.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, Over the Hedge was so close to becoming another animated classic in the likes of Shrek – just not close enough. Although the storytelling is not inherently bad, it lacks ambition. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching, it’s wildly entertaining and has some unforgettable scenes. It’s incredibly insightful for a family film, having the perfect mix of melodrama and lighthearted comedy.