With James Marsden, Gary Cole and the voices of Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie, Hank Azaria. Directed by Tim Hill. Rated PG for some mild rude humor. 90 minutes.
Can we just acknowledge that movies that young children will find entertaining aren’t necessarily good? If parents are satisfied that the film fits their values – or at least doesn’t violate them – it may be suitable for their kids, but not something parents would want to endure themselves. Such is the case with HOP, a movie that takes equal parts of “The Santa Clause,” “Alvin And The Chipmunks” and, of all things, “Due Date,” and turns them into a movie that’s original only because it’s about the Easter Bunny.
The premise is that the current Easter Bunny (voice of Hugh Laurie) is grooming his son E.B. (voice of Russell Brand) to take his place, but E.B. would rather play the drums. One night, E.B. escapes from their headquarters – on Easter Island! – and heads for Hollywood. He eventually ends up with Fred O’Hare (James Marsden), a twenty-something slacker who can’t keep a job.
The mixture of live action and computer animation is the same sort of stuff we’ve seen in the “Alvin” movies and, if you were serving the punitive portion of some kind of karmic sentence, “Yogi Bear.” The second act is a mini-version of last year’s “Due Date,” where Fred finds E.B. a clueless tag-along ruining his chances of getting a job. Complications ensue when, back on Easter Island, head chick Carlos (Hank Azaria doing his stock Spanish accent) is planning a coup against the Easter Bunny. You’ll guess how it all turns out long before the kids do.
Just as Christmas is reduced to Santa and presents in so many movies, anyone watching “Hop” would assume that Easter is a holiday primarily concerned with candy and eggs. The scenes of the candy factory on Easter Island would put Willy Wonka to shame, but isn’t this essentially a five-year-old’s point of view? If this is a hit, look for a whole spate of films along the same lines. Perhaps what’s amazing is that Easter hasn’t been exploited earlier.
Brand, who also appears briefly onscreen in a “wink-wink” cameo, manages to tone down his personality enough to create one for E.B. A strong voice actor can bring a character to life, rather than simply use him or her as a mouthpiece. Brand, Laurie and Azaria do that, although one does have to ask why the villain of the piece is deliberately set up as Latino (none of the other chicks have accents).
Marsden handles his farcical chores with ease. Interacting with a cartoon rabbit was probably not high on his list of dream roles, but he handles it well. One imagines, though, that he has mixed feelings about the film being a success because in “Hop 2,” he would be the Easter Bunny (that’s not a spoiler – he tells us this at beginning of the film).
“Hop” is colorful and disposable entertainment for the kids. Adults will be intermittently amused but will spend more time checking their watches.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.