'Over the Hedge' Rocks the Suburbs

Over the Hedge

Took the kids yesterday to see Over the Hedge, an animated comic strip adaptation by DreamWorks about forest creatures who find their home overtaken by a humongous residential community.

Computer-animated films are my favorite family movies these days, because even when the story's dull the rendering effects are worth seeing on a giant screen.

I didn't notice a single new visual in Over the Hedge comparable to the fur in Monsters Inc. or the expressive human faces in The Incredibles, but the movie had something else going for it -- music by Ben Folds.

Folds has at least three songs in the film, each with a few soulful pokes at suburbia, and the end credits include a new version of "Rockin' the Suburbs." Some critics slammed his work -- FilmCritic.Com derides him as an "elevator-music rocker" -- but I liked the songs, though Folds loses something when he can't mix plaintive piano melodies with bile and profanity. (Who else could make the line "give me my money back, you bitch" irresistible to hum?)

The funniest jokes involve the voracious consumerism of the humans, led by a homeowner's association president voiced by Alison Janney. The animals lose their appetite for foraging after being introduced to junk food, including a stackable Pringle's-like chip called Spuddie's that bears the slogan "Because enough just isn't enough."

When a streetwise raccoon named R.J. explains the world of humans to the other animals, they discover an S.U.V. and marvel at its immense size. "How many humans fit in one?" he's asked.

His answer: "Usually, just one."

I would've liked more incisive digs like that and at least one really grim moment where Folds could crank the pathos up to 11, like the part in Toy Story 2 where Sarah McLachlan sings "When She Loved Me" as Jessie's being discarded by her owner.

But this film played mostly to the intended audience, and my representatives gave it the highest compliment they bestow upon a film in the theater: They danced to the end credits.


I knew my music industry connections would pay off one day, in the form of an anecdote passed along by a Clear Channel bigwig I met when he was a smallwig:

Ben Folds wanted to call his sophomore album "Waist Deep in Blow and Hookers" but the label wouldn't let him. Loves it ...

Very cool to know. Ben Folds is awesome!

I'm posting this comment from a place that epitomizes the decimation "of natural areas to create unnatural suburban landscapes". This development was recently called "magnificent" in a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, but to me it is a sterile wasteland of Disneyesque plasticity.

These places are created by bulldozing the landscape, to strip the soil (should I say sand?) of every living thing, plant or animal. Then the builders come in and erect these homogeneous groups of townhouses (expensive though they are), with their various "themes", and install a new landscape of mostly non-native plants and trees. These plantings of exotic species are typically very water thirsty, not to mention the golf courses that the places are built around. They are a great burden on the aquifer.

The residents here think it's all lovely. I find it eerie and depressing, the very epitome of destructive conspicuous consumption. If you like this sort of place, then continue to vote Republican, because I can assure you very few Democrats live here.

Vince Williams says: "Get a real life, people!"

P.S. Ben Folds Five has made some good music.

Who cares whether or not Ben Folds is an "elevator-music rocker" or not? Even he described Ben Folds Five's music as "punk rock for sissies". Most music critics look like they never go outside into the real world anyway. One of the scariest things I ever saw was an issue of Rolling Stone magazine that had a fashion spread of clothes modeled by its music critics. They looked like a bunch of anemic vampires.

I'd like to see a movie take the adult subtext (what there is of one) of "Over the Hedge", and run with it--namely, the land rape of the world. What's going in the United States is horrific enough, but what's going on in China is even worse. I read in Lonely Planet's newsletter, if it's to be believed, that at the time (c. 2000), there were more earth-moving machines at work in Shanghai than in all the rest of the world combined. Even if that's spurious, the thought of the housing and infrastructure needs of 1.3 billion people in a country with an expanding economy is really frightening.

I'll never forgive Ben Folds for letting William Shatner sing vocals on his song "In Love". Shat has more lives than a cat.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I don't like CGI movies. I'd rather watch Mr. Magoo cartoons.

What's with Uncle Mikey and hookers? Isn't he married? With a new kid?

I don't have a blog because I know it would be hit by a "really nasty spam invasion" as soon as I got it up and running. Rather like "War of the Worlds" aliens running amok on planet Earth, except the Martian invaders had more mercy than the cruel Old Testament deity.

Did I really just say that? Oh well, doesn't matter, because those Martian gasbags inevitably deflate.

I don't insert any links either, because I don't want to point people away from the important information they need to combat the alien invaders who would lead us astray with their cacophonous blathering.

If you would like to join our 'secret' society, just be yourself, and you will automatically win. It's that simple. Plain speaking trumps innuendo every time, naturally.

The film's anti-consumerism message might have more force if the production company didn't have promotional deals with Wal-Mart and Wendy's.

What's with Uncle Mikey and hookers? Isn't he married? With a new kid?

Shhh, you'll wake the baby. I'd forgotten that story completely until I saw this post and had to relate it, it's too much fun to keep to myself. If it's any consolation, all of my hooker knowledge is second- or third-hand, unless you count a trip to Mexico City in 1986 that I can't really remember, and I returned disease-free, so who knows. Lesson: don't call the hotel doctor up to your room on the first day, whatever you do. No good can come from such behavior.

Please forgive the off-topic comment, Rogers, but I had to respond to Uncle Mikey's story. A buddy of mine and I were in Juarez, 1972. We were looking for peyote buttons, and a cab driver, of course, told us he could get us some. So he took us to this giant bordello, filled with some pretty good-looking whores. We were too scared (I was 17) to do anything with them, but the sleazy cabbie showed us some real buttons. Somehow we ended up with a paper bag, and he was long gone. We opened it up, and inside were cut-up stalks of sugar cane and a bunch of condoms. We were afraid to use made in Hong Kong rubbers, too. My buddy said, "The moral of this story is: don't stretch your luck."

Sorry about that.

BTW, the bear completely ruins the effect of the movie as a jeremiad against consumerism.

Hmmm..my original comment didn't get posted for some reason. Stoopid browser.

Saw "Over the Hedge" and thought it really sucked. Even my 9 year old was like "Dad, this is boring, can we go home now."

The movie was excessively formulaic, and the villains were cookie-cutter. Typically in a good version of this sort of "it turns out love is what the mian character really needed" nonsense, the villain will at least be compelling, where here the villain was barely even on screen.

Also, I thought the CGI for this movie were substandard. With the best of these films like Toy Story or Incredibles I sometimes don't even relaize I'm watching CGI. Here, it was blatantly obvious.

I loved it!Over the Hedge is my favorite movie!

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