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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Over The Hedge

Cast: Bruce Willis (RJ the Raccoon), Garry Shandling (Verne the Tortoise), Gene Wilder (Norbert the Owl) (voices); other cast not announced yet.

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Plot: Spring has sprung, and Verne and his woodland friends awaken from their long winter's nap to discover that a tall, green "thing" has mysteriously cropped up right through the middle of their home. Enter RJ, an opportunistic raccoon, who explains that the world beyond the hedge is the "gateway to the good life" where peculiar creatures called humans live to eat, rather than eat to live.

Suspicious and even a little jealous of RJ, the ever-cautious Verne wants to keep his blended family safely on their side of the hedge. But, proving the adage that one man's garbage is another man's--or rather animal's--treasure, the manipulative RJ tries to convince the woodland band that there is little to fear and everything to gain from their over-indulgent new neighbors. Eventually, RJ and Verne form an unlikely friendship as they learn to co-exist with--and even exploit--this strange new world called suburbia.

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Greg's Preview: Tim Johnson gave me/us an entertaining walk through this movie's story (briefly), along with lots of concept art, and a short clip that showed Jim Carrey and Garry Shandling at work, giving the two leads their voices. I've never really read the strip this movie is based on, and I have a feeling most people who see this movie won't have had that experience either. As Johnson describes it, though, this is a simple (and funny) fable how animals might perceive us humans, and how our actions impact their lives. Johnson's goal with the animation style of this movie is to keep the animals faithful to a cartoonish interpretation (they sort of look like the 'Pogo' gang to me), set in a version of a woods from a tortoise's eye view. So, all of the background art (especially the interiors of human houses) has a grand scale to it. As Johnson put it, a refrigerator would tower over a racoon the way a six-story building looks to us, complete with a grainy feel to things in the distance (ie, the ceiling, windows, etc.) that might be outside the field-of-vision of small animals. In other words, the human world looks like a world of giants, which is an obvious approach, but I don't think I've ever seen expressed so well.

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One other thing that really sold me on this movie, however, was Jim Carrey's performance as RJ. Carrey did a great deal of improving with the script, and so it makes sense that the clip I was shown sounded customized for Carrey's bombastic delivery style; hearing him "sell" Vern the Tortoise on the wonders of human civilization was quite fun. This presentation also delivered the news that Gene Wilder is the third voice cast member to be announced, as Norbert the Owl. Of the four presentations I saw this week, this one is tied for my favorite (along with Sharkslayer). In some ways, it's the "smaller" of the four (the other two being Shrek 2 and Madagascar), but the limitations of the setting was attractive to me, because of that strong sense of place that Tim Johnson's presentation sold to us. After listening to him for 30 minutes, I felt like I knew the path to the hedge.

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