‘Hop’ is a Limp Skip, Jump For Russell Brand

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – A definitive cinematic exploration of the Easter Bunny story is precisely what the world is missing. Right? Anyway, the folks behind “Hop,” featuring the voice of Russell Brand as the rascally rabbit, has produced this heretofore missing piece of the film canon.

This combination of live action and animatronic creatures is aimed at the younger set, with PG essential rudeness spliced in for the persons forced to take the younger set to the film. While visually interesting at times, the story bores as just another meandering hero-who-doesn’t-want-the-leadership-role-thrust-upon-him-but-eventually-comes-around kid friendly tale.

We meet E.B.(voice of Russell Brand) on Easter Island (grin), as he lives his idyllic life nurtured by his father (Hugh Laurie). E.B. is unconventional, preferring his rock drumming to the eventual role he will have to take as the Easter Bunny. When his father takes him on a tour of the amazing factories that produce the Easter candy, E.B. also meets a nemesis, a tough talking yellow chick named Carlos (Hank Azaria).

Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, a slacker dude named Fred O’Hare (James Marsden) is having trouble getting his life together and is living with his Mom and Dad (Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole), even though he looks to be in his early thirties. He is haunted by a vision he had as a child, that of a giant egg being pulled by hundreds of yellow chicks, and it seems to have effected his job seeking skills. His sister lands him a gig house-sitting an Los Angeles mansion, and fate is about to seek its destiny.

Rabbit Heirs: E.B. (Voice of Rusell Brand) and Dad (Hugh Laurie) in ‘Hop’
Rabbit Heirs: E.B.(Voice of Russell Brand) and Dad (Hugh Laurie) in ‘Hop’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

E.B, decides the only solution is to run away rather than take on the candy delivery responsibilities, and after falling through the rabbit hole (grin), he comes out on the other side in L.A., just in time to be nearly run over by Fred. The spastic bunny is now under the care of the house sitter, and he desires only to play in a talent show judged by David Hasselhoff. Fred puts two and two together, and figures that this talking hare has to do with his youthful vision.

Easter Island sends its crack bunny commando unit, the Pink Berets, to find the runaway. Carlos the yellow chick attempts a coup. Fred O’Hare begins to have an interest in the Bunny life. E.B. gets a big audition in front of the Hoff. Would Jesus have risen if he knew such complications would arise?

There is nothing unpredictable in the scenario, as subplots pile onto subplots. This is the type of movie shenanigans that assumes that the mere mention or appearance of David Hasselhoff is hip hopping. And although great care was taken in creating a magical candy factory, there was more awe generated by the cheap set of the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” just because the story set-up had more intrigue and mystery.

Russell Brand gets to expand to kid’s warm fuzzy mode as the voice of E.B., and it feels as if he’s going through the motions. Everyone in the cast, in fact, has a tentative aspect to their performances, either because they’re working with the “ball on the stick” animatronics (which wouldn’t explain the awkward chemistry of the O’Hare “family”) or because the script really gives them nothing to do. James Marsden, better in other movies, appears lost in this one.

The post modern irony of today’s animation demands that jokes are written for adult sensibility because a true kid’s movie is not good enough. Hop engages in tired references to the Playboy Mansion (yep, Hugh Hefner, the father of pornography, has now lent his voice to a kid’s movie), Easter chicks (they pull the giant egg, reindeer style, which resulted in one funny joke trying to proclaim their names) and TV talent shows. Despite furious winking at the camera, the gags mostly crashed like a lead balloon.

Even though the computer generated parts of the animated side had some cool scenes, it didn’t blend well with the real world. The bunny commando Pink Berets, which felt like an afterthought to the plot and chase element, didn’t go down well as cute bunnies doing martial arts moves. Are they relatives to Monty Python’s “Killer Rabbit” or Hong Kong ninja warriors? Either way that part could have been excised.

In Training: James Marsden in ‘Hop’
Bunny Boy: James Marsden in ‘Hop’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

It difficult to put this film under a microscope, because in the end it’s a harmless distraction as a family movie excursion for the holiday. But also there is a cynical quality to it, as if the studio (Universal Pictures) recognized the “legs” Hop would have beyond this year, to create the kind of movie tradition during Easter as there is at Christmas. “The Greatest Story Ever Told” isn’t enough for modern marketing.

Stories like this are judged inevitably through their entertainment value. Although the kids and (temporarily) their guardians might enjoy the visuals, Hop has no narrative spring in its step.

“Hop” opens everywhere on April 1st. Featuring Russell Brand, James Marsden, Hank Azaria, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, Kaley Cuoco, Chelsea Handler, Hugh Laurie and David Hasselhoff. Screenplay by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch, directed by Tim Hill. Rated “PG

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2011 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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