April 1, 2011

HOP: Easter Egg Over Easy

More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Watch It At Home
People complain that Hollywood doesn’t take risks, but Universal went and hired the director of Alvin and the Chipmunks to make a movie about a musical-minded, free-spirit digitally animated character who upturns the life of an ordinary guy… talk about pushing the envelope!  (In fairness, Alvin was a chipmunk singer, while EB is a bunny who plays the drums, so you couldn’t actually confuse the two.  And Alvin had brothers.)  Facetiousness aside, the only hit Universal’s had in the past couple of years was Despicable Me, and so the new HOP is not only produced by the Despicable production company, but it combines strains from Alvin, Despicable and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory for a hybrid that’s predictably synthetic but mildly, inoffensively entertaining.  
In the mythology of Hop, the Easter Bunny is a hereditary title, passed to the next generation along with magic powers and control of a giant candy factory.  (Which is located on Easter Island–there’s wit for you!)  The visuals of the factory look like the Everlasting Gobstopper room must be just around the next corner, but instead of Oompa-Loompas, the menial labor is performed by chicks, who act more or less like the Minions in Despicable Me.  The current Bunny In Chief (voice of Hugh Laurie) has an untrustworthy chicken assistant (Hank Azaria), who schemes to take over when Bunny’s plan to turn over things to his son EB (Russell Brand) are scuttled when EB flees to LA so he can pursue his dream of being a drummer instead of running the family business.  By now, you’re probably wondering who wrote this thing:  script by Cinco Paul, Ken Dauno (both of whom also wrote Despicable Me) and Brian Lynch.

Anyway, EB fairly literally runs into Fred (James Marsden), who after the initial shock of meeting a digitally animated bunny who talks like Russell Brand and plays the drums, settles down to becoming EB’s best buddy.  Oh, and Fred is crazy about the Easter Bunny, since catching a glimpse of him as a child.  Which is good, because the evil Azaria is leading a revolution back on Easter Island–and frankly, as real-world monarchs and Presidents-for-life topple around the world, it would be easy to favor some regime change for the oppressed chickens against their ruler rabbits, except that Azaria pecks all the digital scenery in sight as the Spanish-accented (?) villain, making it harder to support NATO intervention here.
In a year that’s given us Mars Needs Moms and Wimpy Kid 2, Hop is at least moderately pleasant to watch.  Brand is actually a good choice as an animated lead–obviously the PG rating doesn’t let him do much of what he normally does, but he has the ability to make his lines sound a bit spontaneous. The humans, though, are utterly bland:  Marsden, who was–sorry–charming as the clueless Prince in Enchanted, can’t get anything going here, and even reliable actors like Gary Cole and Ellizabeth Perkins are left hanging.  Don’t ask about the cameos by Hugh Hefner (bunnies, get it?  I said BUNNIES) and David Hasselhoff.
A Hollywood irony:  although the whole focal point of Hop is Easter (albeit a totally non-sectarian one that according to the dialogue started 4000 years ago), Universal clearly didn’t have any faith in the picture competing with Fox’s Rio, which opens April 16.  So Hop is reaching theatres 3 weeks before the holiday, and will probably be mostly gone by the time that day arrives.  It’s never too soon for the kids to learn about release schedules.  (For more on what goes into movie scheduling, see Mitch Metcalf’s article here.)
(HOP – Universal – PG – 95 min. – Director:  Tim Hill – Script:  Cinco Paul, Ken Duano, Brian Lynch – Cast:  Russell Brand, James Marsden, Hugh Laurie, Hank Azaria – Wide Release)
–Mitch Salem

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."