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DREAMWORKS

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tim Johnson, Karey Kirkpatrick
Cast:
Bruce Willis, Steve Carell, Garry Shandling, Wanda Sykes, William Shatner, Nick Nolte, Thomas Haden Church, Allison Janney, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Avril Lavigne
Writing Credits:
Len Blum, Lorne Cameron, David Hoselton, Karey Kirkpatrick, Michael Fry (characters), T. Lewis (characters)

Tagline:
Taking back the neighborhood ... One snack at a time.

Synopsis:
Turtle Verne (Garry Shandling) and his woodland friends discover that a tall green thing has appeared in the middle of their neighborhood ... it's a hedge. R.J., a devious raccoon (Bruce Willis), explains that beyond the hedge are creatures called humans, and the food they throw away is delicious. Verne doesn't want to go, but R.J. convinces everyone that there's no choice. Will the gang of critters venture into suburbia to see what's in store?

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$38.457 million on 4059 screens.
Domestic Gross
$155.019 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 83 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 10/17/2006

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Directors Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick and Producer Bonnie Arnold
• “Behind the Hedge” Featurette
• “Meet the Cast” Featurette
• “The Tech of Over the Hedge” Featurette
• “Verm-Tech Informercial”
• Galleries
• “Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure” Short with Optional Commentary
• “Learn to Draw Hammy” Featurette
• “Critter 411” Featurette
• Games and Adventures
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Over The Hedge (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (october 23, 2006)

Perhaps the well will eventually run dry and computer-animated films won’t prove to be as insanely profitable as they’ve been in recent times. However, that day won’t take place right now, as the trend continues well into 2006. As long as the results are as fun and entertaining as Over the Hedge, though, I won’t complain.

Hedge focuses on a raccoon named RJ (voiced by Bruce Willis). A loner who worries only about himself, his greed gets the best of him when he tries to steal snacks from a nasty bear named Vincent (Nick Nolte). Vincent catches RJ and a tussle ensues that ends with the destruction of all the food. Vincent gives RJ a brief period of time to replace all the goodies or it’ll be curtains for the raccoon.

From there we meet a small cluster of foraging animals. They come out to greet spring and take the lead of turtle Verne (Garry Shandling) to begin their collection of food for the next winter. A problem occurs when they discover the intrusion of man in the form of a large hedge that separates them from a housing development that encroaches on their territory.

When RJ sees this group, he spies an opportunity. He wants to use them to help him meet his food goals. RJ shows them all the bounty available in the human world and immediately mobilizes them to acquire as many of the needed items as possible. The movie follows the conflicts between RJ and Verne since the latter resents the way the raccoon supplants him as the group’s leader. We also see how the humans react to the animals in their midst.

At no point does Hedge threaten to become a great animated film. It suffers from some heavy-handed moments, particularly as it deals with its ecological message. The movie doesn’t exactly convey its ideas with subtlety, especially as exemplified by the main human, a selfish yuppie shrew named Gladys (Allison Janney). On occasion, these elements feel forced in the way they depict the wasteful humans.

However, Hedge doesn’t concern us with those elements to a ponderous degree, as it mostly focuses on issues related to the animals. These also don’t provide much depth, as they deliver a simple message of family and camaraderie. This is pretty standard Disney-style moralizing, but it doesn’t undermine the project. You can’t go into a film like this and not expect to find similar material, so I don’t mind the message.

Truthfully, this flick is one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The more I think about Hedge, the more problems I find with it. In addition to the simplistic morals, it comes with a climax that never wants to stop. The movie throws out at least one ending too many and threatens to wear out the audience. More isn’t always better, and the manner that the film draws to a close proves that.

All that said, I don’t really mind the various flaws simply because the movie’s still so much fun. It manages a deft wit that usually avoids the pitfalls that affect so many modern animated flicks. Too many of those come chock with inane pop culture references and easy gags. Some of that occurs here, but not nearly as much as expected.

Instead, Hedge goes with character-based comedy and benefits from material that actually fits with the story. Rarely do jokes feel shoehorned into the film just to prompt a cheap laugh. Instead, the situations and personalities motivate the moments, and that helps them become more winning.

A fine cast sure contributes to the movie’s success as well. I think too many modern animated films rely on celebrity performers. Stars don’t necessarily mean better voice-acting, and it often feels like studios cast the names more for marquee value than for what they can bring to their roles.

This doesn’t occur in Hedge. The actors fit their characters well and help deliver good performances. Willis proves surprisingly strong as RJ. I wouldn’t see him in this kind of role, but he provides nice comic chops and makes the character funny and likable in his own sleazy way. Most of the others support him well, though the presence of Avril Lavigne as a young opossum Heather is a mistake; she’s outclassed by the professional actors and provides a flat performance.

Again, I can’t regard Over the Hedge as a classic piece of animation or even anything particularly strong. It suffers from a mix of flaws that occasionally harm it. Nonetheless, it offers way too much good comedy and fun for me to criticize it strongly. It succeeds when it counts.

Footnote: be sure to stay through the end credits for a fun concluding shot.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Over the Hedge appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though this wasn’t one of the most satisfying animated transfers I’ve seen, the film looked good.

At almost all times, sharpness was solid. I thought some wide shots came across as slightly soft, but those examples were exceptions to the rule. Instead, the majority of the flick seemed accurate and concise. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws also were absent.

Hedge went with a gentle natural palette that showed up well on the DVD. Colors seemed accurate and well-rendered across the board. Blacks appeared deep and firm, but shadows were a little thick at times. Nighttime shots tended to be just a smidgen more opaque than I’d like. Nonetheless, I found little reason to complain through this pleasing visual presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Over the Hedge also worked just fine. No issues related to quality occurred. Speech was always natural and concise, with good intelligibility and no edginess or brittleness. Effects were detailed and accurate. They presented nice range and heft when appropriate. Music seemed bouncy and lively, and the score also showed good warmth.

The soundfield was good but unexceptional. Much of the time it concentrated on general ambience, though some scenes kicked into higher gear. The scene with the rampaging dog and the climactic rescue involving, and a few other action-oriented bits also came to life well. These weren’t frequent elements, though, so expect a track that stayed moderately subdued much of the time. I also thought some aspects of the track tended to be a bit speaker-specific at times and they didn’t mesh tremendously well. Nonetheless, it was active enough to merit a “B”, and the soundscape seemed more than suitable for this flick.

Moving to the DVD’s extras, we start in a section called “Behind the Hedge”. This includes an audio commentary from directors Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick and producer Bonnie Arnold. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss story and plotting issues, working with the cast and their performances, visual design and animation, Ben Folds’ songs and other technical subjects.

As with many commentaries, too much praise occasionally drags down this piece. However, the participants demonstrate such honest enthusiasm that these moments don’t create many problems. Besides, we learn more than enough good material to compensate. We find nice nuts and bolts along with a solid discussion of challenges and quite a few fun stories; I especially like the tales of working with Nick Nolte. This is a pretty enjoyable track.

A featurette entitled Behind the Hedge fills 12 minutes. It mixes movie scenes, behind the scenes materials and interviews. We hear from Johnson, Kirkpatrick, Arnold, comic strip creators T Lewis and Michael Fry, production designer Kathy Altieri, supervising animators Jason Reisig and David Burgess, character TD supervisor Jeffrey B. Light, character TD Dick Walsh, surfacing supervisor Clunie Holt, visual effects supervisor Craig Ring, composers Rupert Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer, singer/songwriter Ben Folds, and actors Steve Carell and Bruce Willis. The show looks at the comic strip that inspired the film and its adaptation, moving the characters to 3D and designing them, animation concerns and visual effects, and score and songs.

That’s a lot of subjects for a short program, and “Behind” rips through them pretty quickly. Nonetheless, they give us some nice insights into the film. The brevity means we don’t get a lot of detail, but the piece offers a fun overview.

If you want to Meet the Cast, head to this 15-minute and 43-second show. It presents comments from Johnson, Kirkpatrick, Willis, Carell, Arnold and actors Garry Shandling, Wanda Sykes, Eugene Levy, William Shatner, Avril Lavigne, Catherine O’Hara, Nick Nolte, Allison Janney, Thomas Haden Church and Omid Djalili. We find notes about the characters and actors, and we learn a little about their vocal choices. Beyond character basics, there’s not a great amount of information to be found, but the shots of the actors as they act are fun.

The Tech of Over the Hedge goes for six minutes and three seconds. It features Altieri, Burgess, Ring, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chief Technology Officer Ed Leonard, CG lighting supervisor Michael Necci, head of character effects Andy Lomas, CG supervisors Bert Poole and Dave Walvoord, and head of digital operatons Derek Chan. The piece looks at animation issues like lighting, fur, character interaction, rendering and the state of technology. As with the other featurettes, this one rushes through its subjects. However, it gives us a few decent insights along the way.

In the Verm-Tech Commercial, we get a two-minute and 54-second clip. This takes shots from the movie and layers narration from Thomas Haden Church on top to sell us on the Verm-Tech educational experience. It’s cute and moderately amusing.

Within the Galleries we get five subdomains. These cover “Character Design” (232 across seven sections), “Set Design” (18), “Package Design” (72), “Sketches” (41), and “Storyboards” (63). Each collection includes many good pieces of art, but I particularly like “Package Design” since it lets us take a close look at all the products created for the flick.

A few elements appear under the banner of “DreamWorks Kids”. First comes a new short called Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure. This cartoon shows Hammy as RJ and the others tease him with boomerangs. It boasts the original voice cast and is moderately entertaining, though it doesn’t seem like a whole lot of effort went into it.

We can watch “Adventure” with or without commentary from director Will Finn. He lets us know why they created the short and gives us a few notes about it. There’s not much to learn here, but Finn covers the clip reasonably well.

Those who want to Learn to Draw Hammy will like the 10-minute and 56-second program. Animator David Burgess leads us through the steps to draw the movie’s squirrel. This turns into a good little tutorial.

Info about animals pops up in Critter 411. This four-minute and two-second piece identifies all the creatures featured in Hedge and offers basics about the various species. This should offer a nice little educational piece for the kids.

Under “Games & Activities”, we find two elements. Backyard Obstacle Course requires you to guide Hammy through a maze of traps. It’s surprisingly challenging. Acorn Toss acts as a crude version of Skeeball that’s not a whole lot of fun.

The DVD opens with an ad for Flushed Away. It also includes a promo for Jerry Seinfeld’s animated Bee Movie and some Previews. That area presents trailers for Wallace and Gromit, Antz, Madagascar, the 2006 remake of Charlotte’s Web, Nacho Libre and Barnyard. We also get a clip that advertises the first two Shrek flicks and teases us with 2007’s Shrek the Third. No trailer for Hedge shows up on the DVD.

We see so many crummy computer-animated flicks these days that I’m always surprised if I like any that don’t come from Pixar. Chalk up Over the Hedge as an unexpected winner. Despite a mix of minor flaws, the end result proves funny and consistently entertaining. The DVD presents positive picture, audio and extras. I recommend this fun movie and solid release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.62 Stars Number of Votes: 50
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main