In the Crying Shame Department, a lot of press and public interest will be devoted to the release of The Da Vinci Code. Early reviews from Cannes reinforce my fears: the leads have no chemistry, and it is, above all things, a Ron Howard film. What makes this a crying shame is the lack of attention given to this weekend's other major release, Over the Hedge, a surprisingly funny movie which defied my middling expectations.
RJ the raccoon (Bruce Willis) owes a food debt to Vincent the bear (Nick Nolte). During the hibernation period, most of the forest was torn down to develop a giant suburban monstrosity, surrounded and protected by a giant hedge. RJ uses an extended forest family in a mission to steal human food and repay his debt. Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling) is the cautious head of the family and is skeptical of RJ's intentions.
Structurally, this concept of a charismatic newcomer challenging the steady leader for group control should sound familiar, because it's copied from Toy Story. (There's even a fuel-propelled scene that feels highly derivative of something Woody and Buzz did.) It's not original, but it works. Again.
You may be secretly frustrated if you can't place the actors behind the voices (most are distinct, but few are identifiable), so it helps to prepare. Using the above photo, you have Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy as porcupines, Wanda Sykes as the skunk, Steve Carell as the squirrel pointing upward, and William Shatner and Avril Lavigne as the father and daughter opossums. (Allison Janney and Thomas Haden Church play the humans.)
The plot was fairly predictable, but it didn't matter because the jokes were plentiful. And while the humor was intended for all ages, I noticed that the adults laughed a lot louder than the children. Particularly enjoyable was RJ's brief rant on the relationship between humans and food. (Morgan Spurlock would be proud.) In a cast of comedic actors, special mention goes to Steve Carell, who gave Hammy the squirrel a high-pitched voice and a serious attention deficit. Add the humans' caffeine products to his jittery nature and you could just about stop time.