Over the Hedge pushed DreamWorks Animation over the edge. Despite its mostly forgotten status, Over the Hedge is a lot more impactful than its given credit. After the Oscar winning Wallace & Gromit, DreamWorks permanently focused on computer animation starting in 2006. Over the Hedge was distributed by Paramount Pictures instead of DreamWorks Pictures. Unlike most of what came before, Over the Hedge isn’t a Disney copycat or unflattering parody. It’s actually based on a 1995 comic strip series. I only saw the movie in theaters with my brother and father because I was still 10 years old and it was another DreamWorks movie. Over the Hedge turned out to be a lot of fun with hilarious characters and zany cartoon logic. The DVD came with a collection of comic strips and the usual animated short, but it was definitely a step in a new direction. Like the comic strips, Over the Hedge deals with average American forest animals in the high tech, food crazy suburban world. The main characters are RJ the racoon, Verne the turtle, Hammy the red squirrel, and a human baby named Clara. The movie understandably increases the number of anthropomorphic animals and omits the baby.
Bruce Willis fills RJ with a smooth talking con artist charm that gets him in trouble with a hungry bear. Vincent is the primary animal villain appropriately voiced by Nick Nolte. RJ’s problem is needing to replace all of Vincent’s food before the full moon. Over the Hedge is loaded with delicious looking fictional packaged food like “Spuddies.” Garry Shandling voices Verne, the nervous leader of a quirky group of forgers waking up from hibernation. Steve Carell is a major scene stealer as the superfast hyperactive Hammy. Wanda Sykes is perfectly tolerable as the sassy and stinky skunk Stella. William Shatner brings his over-the-top theatrics to the dead playing opossum Ozzie and Avril Lavigne makes her unexpected feature film debut as his teenage daughter Heather. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara voice stereotypically friendly Minnesota porcupine Lou & Penny who also have a trio of rambunctious porcupettes. They’re a likable bunch who have their lives turned upside down when they discover a giant hedge between their home.
RJ challenges Vernes old fashioned world views by helping them embrace the food filled suburbia in order to secretly collect the food that he needs. Leading to all sorts of crazy animal antics that clash with the home residents. The first major human villain is uptight president of the homeowners association Gladys Sharp voiced by Allison Janney. She plots to exterminate the “vermin” with the help of second human villain Dwayne LaFontant. Thomas Haden Church is the comedically psychotic Verminator who sets up multiple deadly traps. The truth comes out, but RJ learns to accept his new family by the end. Concluding with an extra crazy climax where Hammy runs at the speed of light to save everyone. Apart from the food, pop culture references are kept to a minimum. With the exception of a Persian cat screaming the name “Stella!” Music doesn’t drive the plot for a change, but there are some nice tunes. The computer animation gives an appropriately stylized look to all the lovable animals. Suburbia isn’t covered a lot in animation, but the environment looks great too. Over the Hedge proves that when it comes to DreamWorks, enough just isn’t enough.