The animated family film Hop has bounced around the top of the box office chart since its April 1st release, holding the #1 place for two weekends in a row and then dropping to #3. Now that Easter weekend is upon us, Universal’s film about the Easter Bunny’s angst-ridden son is sure to draw crowds. But is Hop really any good?
I have to say this film is sure to please kids of all ages. The kiddos will love it, and the adults will find enough nods and inside jokes geared toward their crowd to be entertained. Much like Illumination Entertainment’s last animated family film, Despicable Me, this film surprised me in a good way. I had low expectations going in, and came out with a warm fuzzy feeling (in no way brought on by the copious fluffy, jellybean-pooping bunnies).Cute bunnies abound in this story of the Easter Bunny’s son E.B. (voiced by Brit funnyman Russell Brand), who dreams of becoming a famous rock’n’roll drummer. Only, E.B. comes from a long, prestigious line of honourable Easter Bunnies and his father expects him to take over the family business. Much like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny has a workshop powered by the Egg of Destiny and Magic. Little yellow chicks do the work of elves, turning out candies and painted eggs to deliver and hide for little children all over the world (except for China…they don’t care for the Easter Bunny in China).
On the eve of taking over for his famous dad, E.B. decides to run away to Hollywood to make his dreams come true. Lucky for him, when he arrives in Hollywood he is promptly hit by a car. Enter Fred O’Hare (James Marsden), another grown-up son who chronically disappoints his father. The hapless loser Fred is guilted into taking E.B. home with him and that’s when things get crazy.
The Easter Bunny is devastated at his son’s disappearance and he orders the Pink Berets (a lethal bunny secret service) to hunt him down and bring him back. Meanwhile, back on Easter Island the chicks are staging a coup led by Carlos (voiced by the talented Hank Azaria), the head chick at Easter Bunny’s workshop. As Fred finds his true calling and E.B. tries to evade the Pink Berets, the very future of the Easter Holiday is in peril.
Much like Despicable Me, Hop sets a great tone somewhere between cute/cuddly and adolescent cheekiness. Probably because Hop scribe Cinco Paul also wrote Despicable Me. Director Tim Hill isn’t a stranger to mouthy animated characters or quirky humor as he has written episodes for SpongeBob SquarePants and Rocko’s Modern Life. He’s worked as director on plenty of family films too, like Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield. His experience shows in Hop‘s sleek animation and smooth scenes.
It is a successful family film in that it has jokes that appeal to both children and adults. Lots of physical humor, but also plenty of pop culture references and even some sweet whimsy. And then there are all the fluffy bunnies and chickadees. Maybe it’s the girly girl in me, but I wanted to pick them all up and kiss their fuzzy noses.
Hop is an interesting mix of live action and CGI. The animation is excellent, as Illumination Entertainment is no slouch in that department. The visuals were crisp and clear, and all the fur/feather effects were amazingly realistic. More impressive was the fact that the animation worked seamlessly in with the live action.
Marsden made jobless loser Fred quite likeable. His good looks were underplayed for the slacker role, but he still came across charming and a little naïve (a necessary quality for the role of a grown man who longs to become the Easter Bunny). Marsden seemed quite comfortable acting against an animated bunny and co., and that naturalness probably comes in part from his experience acting in hybrid live action/animation films. He played Prince Edward in Disney’s Enchanted, where he was both an animated character and a live action character playing against animated characters. Guess he’s earned his stripes in that department.
Azaria does so much voice work that I can’t even remember what he looks like. Once again he put on a Spanish-flavored accent for Carlos, and his voice work coupled with the animation made the character a scene-stealer. Gary Cole played Fred’s dad, and I’m never disappointed with him. He has great natural comedic timing. Elizabeth Perkins did a competent job as Fred’s mom, as did Kaley Cuoco as his sister. Chelsea Handler was as obnoxious as ever in a small role, and David Hasselhoff (aka the Hoff) was pleasantly self-effacing in his cameo. Lastly, Hugh Laurie did an excellent job as the voice of the honorable Easter Bunny himself.
Russell Brand, an overrated actor in my opinion, voiced E.B. (and had a tiny cameo role too, as if his voice wasn’t enough). I felt his grating, Cockney accent didn’t fit with the character of E.B at all. Every time I heard his voice coming out of the cute, fluffy bunny it pulled me out of the moment. It wasn’t too bad though and despite Brand voicing the main character I still found the film quite enjoyable.
I think the strategy behind releasing Hop at the beginning of April was sound. An Easter weekend release might mean great numbers all at once, and then a quick fizzle out. Not to mention Hop hasn’t had a lot of fierce competition besides the other animated family film Rio, and this weekend looks to be more of the same as Hop will be up against the likes of Madea’s Big Happy Family, docu-drama African Cats, and the period drama Water for Elephants. I predict Hop holds its own this weekend, even against the new releases. After all, what better to watch on Easter weekend than a cute family-friendly movie about the Easter Bunny?