Hop

What It Is

Like a lot of teenagers, EB (voiced by Russell Brand) doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. Unlike most teenagers, he has fur and long ears. His father is the Easter Bunny (Hugh Laurie), you see, and EB wants to play the drums instead. In pursuit of his dream, the young bunny leaves the Easter candy factory on Easter Island (a factory plainly mimicking Willy Wonka’s much more imaginative factory) for Hollywood.

Here he meets Fred O’Hare (acted by James Marsden), another rebellious son. Fred first appears at the family dinner table as his father (Gary Cole) chastises him for his lack of ambition. Still living at home and unemployed, Fred is a disappointment, though he insists he’s just waiting for the “right” opportunity. It so happens that EB provides it. Following a close encounter — Fred almost hits the bunny with his car — Fred is startled to learn that the rabbit not only talks, but is also fiercely determined to make it as a drummer in a rock band.

The relationship takes a few detours before the boys bond. EB sabotages Fred’s efforts to find work (specifically, he ruins an interview Fred has with a videogame company headed by Chelsea Handler), trashes a mansion where Fred is house-sitting, and spends some discomforting minutes flirting with Fred’s sister (Kaley Cuoco) (she thinks she’s cuddling a stuffed toy). For his part, Fred helps the bunny land an audition with the Hoff (played by David Hasselhoff himself).

This imbalanced friendship leads to something like a happy ending, when each boy gets what he wants — his father’s approval — as well as a chance to spend some time together every Easter.

Why It’s Fun

The animation — by the creators of Despicable Me — is detailed and convincing, from the rabbits’ fur to the chicks’ yellow feathers and tiny flapping wings (it’s not explained why the chicks never grow up to be chickens).

Several jokes are made concerning the Easter Bunny’s special powers. For one thing, he poops jellybeans (not exactly a fart joke, but close). For another, he talks (while Fred is stunned by this, a hardworking, seen-it-all diner waitress, for example, is unimpressed). And for still another, he’s able to hop and leap beyond the usual laws of physics.

Fred and EB’s antics in Los Angeles are exceedingly frantic. They’re engaged in lots of exasperated faces and flailing limbs, lots of rushing from set to set, without much motivation.

Who’s Going To Love It

Russell Brand fans will appreciate EB’s shenanigans, as these are premised on the comedian’s patented persona: slouchy and cynical. He makes jokes about humans’ odd behavior, he makes fun of Fred’s slow-to-comprehend shock at a talking rabbit, and he’s awfully cute when he hops about.

Fans of the Blind Boys of Alabama will be shocked to see them here, playing themselves during a studio recording session EB crashes in order to play the drums — unseen by his co-performers. Most of this film’s viewers won’t know the group’s music or reputation.

Those viewers in search of a good, or at least coherent, story will be disappointed. The film works too hard to get Fred and EB into a series of predicaments that have nothing to do with each other, following the uneven roadmap established by previous movies focused on interactions between live human actors and cute animated creatures (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Yogi Bear). None of these hybrid adventures has been entertaining or charming: Hop does not change that trend.

What To Be Aware Of

The plot is premised on something like a trauma: as a boy, Fred (played by Coleton Ray) spots the Easter Bunny leaving colored eggs and chocolate candies on his lawn. Awed by the bunny’s sleek and shiny Egg-Sleigh (which is fashioned after Santa’s famous vehicle, powered by a flock of chicks instead of eight reindeer), the boy is unable to convince anyone else of what he’s seen, and so feels put out for the rest of his life — until he meets EB, of course, an event he calls “destiny.”

Fred and EB interrupt a middle school Easter pageant where Fred’s adopted sister Alex (Tiffany Espensen) is playing the Easter Bunny. Because she’s a terrible singer (being a child in a school play), EB takes it upon himself to jump on stage and stop her. In order to smooth over the fact that EB is talking — in front of an audience full of surprised parents and teachers — Fred pretends the bunny is part of a new ventriloquism act. This occasions the singing of “I Want Candy,” a pop song originally written by the Strangeloves and covered by Aaron Carter (among others): the act is raucous and strangely Chipmunk-ian, and so upsets Alex that she kicks Fred in the shins.

While most of the humans marvel at Fred’s ability to speak, the film includes three bunnies who remain silent. Conspicuously, these are female bunnies. The Pink Berets are a squad of three ninja-like bunnies EB’s father sends to retrieve him. They’re equipped with a GPS device and the ability to scale walls and buildings, but they cannot speak: this is more than a bit odd, since they’re apparently the only female bunnies on Easter Island.

To this point: EB’s mother is never even mentioned. And Fred’s mother, Bonnie (Elizabeth Perkins), hardly has anything to say or do. Rather, she’s left to look worried or anguished or encouraging, as Fred’s changing situations warrant.

EB’s primary rival back on Easter Island is a chick named Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria to sound “Latino” in the most stereotypical way). He’s determined to become the first Easter Chick, to take over the Easter delivery duties when EB doesn’t want to. The Easter Bunny, EB’s dad, thinks this is silly, and treats Carlos disrespectfully, only encouraging the chick’s deviousness and outrage. This leads to a showdown involving an ugly transformation, complete with flashing lights and shadows and big scary music: the chick becomes large and menacing and half-bunny, a monster. When his scheme is stopped, he’s humiliated as well as angry.

See-It-Again Points

3 out of 10

Film Information

Hop
Director: Tim Hill
Cast: Russell Brand, James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Chelsea Handler
Studio: Universal Pictures
Year: 2011
Rated: PG
US Premiere: April 1, 2011
UK Premiere: April 1, 2011
Official Website
Official Trailer
Movie Pictures

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