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'HOP' away from flimsy tale

by jmaloni
Fri, Apr 8th 2011 10:05 pm
In `HOP,` the new live action/CG-animated comedy from the producers of `Despicable Me` and the director of `Alvin and the Chipmunks,` out-of-work slacker Fred (James Marsden) has found himself with the world's worst houseguest: E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), the teenage son of the Easter Bunny. (photo by Jaimie Trueblood/© 2011 Universal Studios. All rights reserved).
In "HOP," the new live action/CG-animated comedy from the producers of "Despicable Me" and the director of "Alvin and the Chipmunks," out-of-work slacker Fred (James Marsden) has found himself with the world's worst houseguest: E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), the teenage son of the Easter Bunny. (photo by Jaimie Trueblood/© 2011 Universal Studios. All rights reserved).
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Film review by Sophia Smith

Being a lifelong film lover, I was looking forward to this fun, colorful Easter newcomer. I fondly remember parking myself in front of the family room TV with my Easter basket, eagerly awaiting "Easter Parade" and "The Sound of Music."

The "HOP" trailer looked exciting, cute, and colorful, so I was expecting something at least mildly entertaining and hoping for something magical ala Pixar. But the cheery and vibrant visuals of the trailer were just a vapor that never quite materialized. Within minutes, I was wondering how this marshmallow fluff of a movie (lacking any real imagination or substance) was No. 1 at the box office.

We begin on "Easter Island," and are introduced to the sugary sweet world of the "Easter Factory." The factory is reminiscent of Willy Wonka's, and festooned with a colossal jellybean fountain, roller-skating chicks, hard-working bunnies, and golden assembly lines galore. The colors and visuals are stunning in this make-believe confectionary world, and make us want to sink our teeth into everything we see.

The Easter Bunny is grooming his son, E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), to soon take over the family business, passing out Easter baskets in the Faberge egg-shaped sleigh. Soon enough, we gather that little E.B. is far more interested in jamming on his drums, than anything to do with candy, family traditions, or Easter.

E.B. makes his break for the real world via (how else?) a computerized rabbit hole! He chooses Hollywood as his destination to make his rock star dreams come true ... and is soon wandering around with a "Homes of the Stars" map. This leads to none other than the Playboy mansion, with a very recognizable voice booming out of the security speaker. Which begs the question, how do you explain what the Playboy mansion is when your 6-year-old undoubtedly asks you?

All the while, the first human Easter bunny (as he introduces himself teasingly at the beginning of the movie), Fred O'Hare (James Marsden), is loafing around his parents' house happily unemployed. We are subjected to an awkward and completely ludicrous scene at the dining room table one evening, when the entire family pulls out an "intervention letter." They have a formal intervention telling Fred to get his act together. They love him, want the best for him, blah, blah, blah, but are gently asking him to move out ... rather kicking him out. His big sis saves the day as he is heading to "sleep in his car," and offers him the job of taking care of her boss's house.

On his way, he "meets" E.B. by running him over. As he is about to put the little fluffy guy out of his misery with a large rock, E.B. shouts out, and the human and talking rabbit start out their journey together.

At this point, I was simply embarrassed for Marsden, who has starred in "X-Men," and a few decent films. I wanted to "HOP" out of the theater ... but stayed hoping it would get a little better.

Now, Fred is headed to his housesitting gig, and, of course, E.B. has the brilliant idea of feigning injury to score a place to stay. Fred gingerly lets E.B. into the boss's house, and treats him like a squirrel or wild rodent, rather than a talking bunny who wears a T-shirt. Before long, the mischievous little E.B. is trashing the house, eating food everywhere, overflowing the bathtub, and doing all the forbidden acts he can think of.

By now I was wishing we had stayed home, watched "The Sound of Music" DVD, and enjoyed a great family movie together. But the film wore on.

Next we meet the "Pink Berets," the secret police from Easter Island on a mission to bring E.B. home to his bunny throne. This subplot goes nowhere, as does the other showcasing the eponymous David Hasselhoff as a talent search judge. Of course, E.B. tries out and dazzles The Hoff with his drumming skills until he decides it is more important to go save Fred who he sent to take his place on Easter Island.

Meanwhile, back at the Easter Factory, Carlos the evil Spanish chick wants more than just being second in command. Sensing turmoil and unrest on the island with the departure of E.B., he plans and executes a coup d'état. There are some funny scenes here, with the Father Bunny and Fred being tied up by a small, fat, evil chick. Goodness prevails, however, and the coup is thwarted when E.B. returns, and rightfully takes his place as the (co) Easter Bunny.

Overall, "HOP" is like a helping of bright, colorful, gooey and nutrition-lacking Easter Candy: all bling, no substance.

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