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Hop: An Easter hare apparent - with an identity crisis

2.5 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

The family comedy Hop finally pays some attention to the second most famous deliverer of holiday treats, the Easter Bunny, in a combination of live action and animation aimed at the very young set.

Director Tim Hill previously made two memorably grating films in this hybrid genre, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties and Alvin and the Chipmunks. This time he's helped by improving technology and the Despicable Me writing team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (along with Brian Lynch), making for more palatable results.

The focus isn't on the reigning Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie) but on the hare apparent, or E.B. (Russell Brand), the teenaged son who's scheduled to take over his father's vast underground candy factory on Easter Island.

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The trouble is E.B. has other career ambitions and, right before Easter Sunday, he uses the island's teleport machine to go to Hollywood to fulfill his dream of being a rock 'n' roll drummer.

The choice of an English comedian to voice a Pacific Island rabbit/drummer may be closer to typecasting than is immediately obvious. Brand twice previously played a rock star ( Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) and he was three times voted England's "shagger of the year" in a contest by The Sun, which makes him a sound choice to impersonate a fertility symbol. Though his plush-toy-like bunny persona looks huggable, the voice suggests Brand's usual free associating, pixilated persona.

By chance, or destiny, E.B. has a human equivalent living in Los Angeles - a 30-year-old slacker named Fred (James Marsden, of Enchanted and X-Men movies), who's also a disappointment to his dad. His parents (Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins) and two sisters organize an intervention: Get out of the house, get a job. His eldest sister (Kaley Cuoco) provides him with a temporary residence in a lavish Hollywood mansion which she is supposed to house-sit. Reluctantly, he leaves. It seems Fred has never been entirely right since the time, 20 years before, he witnessed the Easter Bunny landing in his glowing egg-shaped chariot in the family garden.

After Fred's car bumps into E.B., he takes the bunny back to the house to recuperate and the rabbit trashes the place. Alarmingly, he proves he can poop jellybeans, which remains the most disturbing idea in the movie. Mayhem ensues when the bunny takes Fred to a job interview with a video-game company president (a listless Chelsea Handler) and E.B. sits in on a recording session with Blind Boys of Alabama. The group tips him off to an audition with David Hasselhoff, who, as a tribute to the former Baywatch star's strangeness, is unfazed by a talking-rabbit musician.

Though the integration of live action and animation is improving (especially a scene where E.B. cuddles with Fred's sister), it's still a slightly disorienting experience, and we never completely lose the impression that the ever game Marsden is mugging in an empty space, with E.B. pencilled in later. Still, the bright-but-bland Los Angeles scenes are more effective than the Easter Island scenes, which turns out to be a bit of a buzz kill to the sugar high.

In this Willy Wonka-like animated world where multihued candies move about on assembly lines, the constant introduction to Rube Goldberg-style devices and slapstick action grows increasingly tiresome. In the most ill-advised subplot, Hank Azaria provides the belligerent voice of the revolutionary factory-floor supervisor, Carlos the Chick, thus introducing young viewers to the unpleasant spectre of chick-versus-rabbit class warfare.

Someone at Fox News should do an editorial. This is exactly the sort of reckless comedy that, in later life, can lead adults to a life-long, shame-based relationship with imported confections.

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HopDirected by Tim HillWritten by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio and Brian LynchStarring James Marsden and the voice of Russell BrandClassification: G

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Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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