Reviewed by: David Graham

It's curious to consider how many films - franchises even - have been based around seasonal holidays: there's a plethora of pictures taking inspiration from Christmas, Hallowe'en, Valentine's Day, and even regional exclusives like Thanksgiving, Independence Day and Groundhog Day(!). Easter has always been largely ignored by writers, however, a fact that seems even more bizarre given that it has its own family-friendly mascot in the form of the egg-dealing Easter Bunny. Kidflick specialist Tim Hill goes all out to redress the balance with the succinctly monikered Hop, channeling the subversive edge he brought to cult Nickelodeon cartoons Rocko's Modern Life and Spongebob Squarepants as well as the more wholesome familiarity he bestowed upon Muppets From Space, Garfield 2 and Alvin And The Chipmunks.

As with those previous hits, Hill has assembled some truly talented individuals to parley with his animated stars and also to provide their voices. Russell Brand stars as EB, the rambunctious offspring of the Easter Bunny in a strange twist on the Santa Claus legend. It's a nice if overly obvious approach to the traditional egg-sharing season but it's disconcertingly out there as well, the use of a sleigh, in particular, bringing the concept a little too close to Saint Nick's methodology.

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EB's predictable excursion into the modern human world thankfully kicks things into gear; he's a refreshingly unusual creation, dreaming of being a rock drummer and effortlessly mixing with his slacker custodian. In that role, James Marsden once again proves he's a dab hand at playing off special effects; he's a truly gifted physical comedian and knows when to pull back to better highlight technical wizardry. Kaley Cuoco also does well making the transition from TV's Big Bang Theory, as the sensible foil to her more rebellious counterparts.

The film gets a little bogged down in the plot department, a simple fish out of water set-up giving way to dastardly scheming on the part of Hank Azaria's villainous usurping chick. The central bonding journey between Brand and Marsden is more interesting than this lame adventure, their mutual maturing echoing recent ET buddy flick Paul. However, there are also some incongruous attempts to appeal to adult viewers - can Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Mansion have any rightful place in a U-certificate family film? Rango got the balance between these fleeting appeasements and children-pleasing toilet humour mostly right, fully earning its PG certificate - the bestial innuendo and nudity here are a little less successful, perhaps because of or in spite of Russell Brand's impossible-to-ignore real-life debauchery.

Hop is ultimately more accomplished than it might need or reasonably be expected to be. Director Hill's light touch and sunny visual sense keeps his fable appealing, and his performers pull their weight in roles that could easily have been dialed in. There's a lovely looseness to the design and animation that recalls Who Framed Roger Rabbit's culture clash and crossover madness. Hill keeps proceedings to a tight and brisk 95 minutes, and even manages to tenuously shoehorn some Patti Smith and Blur into the soundtrack. The end result is a little underwhelming given the sum of its parts, but it's never less than enjoyable, even if you can't abide Brand's pretty limited style of humour and delivery. It's doubtful it'll lead to further adventures for its characters, but at least their world is a wholly original place, and if you have to keep the kids busy over this holiday season, you could certainly do a lot worse.

Reviewed on: 31 Mar 2011
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After accidentally running over the Easter bunny's son, an unemployed man is forced to get involved in the egg delivery business.
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Director: Tim Hill

Writer: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio

Starring: Russell Brand, James Marsden, Elizabeth Perkins, Hank Azaria

Year: 2011

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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