Friday, April 1, 2011

Pooping Jelly Beans: Hop

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

I'll freely admit that when it comes to cute things, I am an unabashed sucker. Puppies and kittens will easily raise a piercing cry of "OH MY GOD SOOOO CUUUUTE!" from my lips, but I also tend to have the same reaction to stuffed animals, greeting cards, and, on rare occasions, babies. So I did not go into the movie "Hop" with any kind of reluctance. That bunny is fucking cute, yo.

Alas, no level of cute is a cure for an uninspired story, the lack of any real humor, or hopeless acting.

"Hop" is the story of E.B. (Russell Brand), the teenage heir to the Easter Bunny crown. He lives on Easter Island (duh) with his father (Hugh Laurie), who the current Easter Bunny, (no mention of mummy bunny), and an army of yellow chicks who work in the candy factory that fills the world's Easter baskets every year. But E.B. does not want to be a beloved holiday icon; he wants to be a rock and roll drummer, and decides to escape the island, via rabbit hole, taking his dreams to Hollywood.

It is at this point that the movie's combo of animation and live action takes hold, "Alvin and the Chipmunks"-style (both are directed by Tim Hill). E.B. pairs up with Fred, a twentysomething slacker (James Marsden), who reacts in disbelief at the talking rabbit, although no one else who meets E.B. seems all that surprised, including David Hasselhoff, who plays himself. (Of course, he may just be playing an absolute blotto version of himself who would not balk at the sight of a drum-playing, talking bunny.)

Back on Easter Island, the head chick, Carlos (Hank Azaria), plans to take over the Easter Bunny vacancy via a forced chicken coup.

The animation in "Hop" is really quite lovely, and director Hill has had enough practice with the live-action/animated hybrid that the results are pretty seamless. So it's a shame that these things are utterly wasted on a movie that only managed to make me laugh once--ONCE!--in a scene in which E.B. pretends to be a stuffed animal, and is squeezed with glee by Kaley Cuoco, who plays Fred's sister. (And, OK, the fact that the bunnies poop jelly beans is a nice touch.)

And it's not enough to say "Well, this is a kids movie!" There were a lot of youngins in the theater when I saw it, and they were noticeably antsy during any scenes that did not include the cute bunny (and there are way too many scenes that don't), and didn't seem all that amused by any other moments, either. Also, I'm pretty sure jokes involving the Playboy Mansion and the Hoff are going to be lost on them, (and aren't very amusing for adults, either).

I have been utterly immune to the so-called charms of Russell Brand, but his performance as E.B. is probably the least annoying thing he's done thus far. Unfortunately, this lack of annoyance also seems to result in a lack of humor, as he really doesn't have any memorable lines in the entire thing. And I am not sure comedy is James Marsden's calling, as his approach to it revolves around constant mugging, which, coming from a face like his, is the visual equivalent of Ethel Merman singing through a mega horn: waaaay too big.

"Hop" is not an affront to comedy, animation, and children's movies; it's not worthy of hate. But because it doesn't really try to be anything but completely innocuous, inoffensive, and tame, it ends up being about as satisfying as a hollow chocolate Easter bunny, albeit a cute one you feel a little bad about biting the head off of.

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