Russell Brand's rise as a star has been fairly swift and unconventional, sure, but usually the broad children's film comes far later in the career-- Tim Allen made The Santa Clause when he already had a hit network TV show, and Eddie Murphy had given us nearly a dozen edgy comedies before moving on to voice Donkey in Shrek. But in arguably his only second starring film role Brand is voicing a CGI rabbit in Hop, a movie that accepts as a given that Brand is an internationally beloved movie star and gets absolutely nowhere as a result. As the lead human James Marsden, an actor who deserved to be a star well before Brand did, shoulders most of the burden, mugging and pratfalling his way through a children's film that's beneath him and everyone else who made it.
Cribbing so blatantly from the Santa Claus myth that it has the Easter Bunny flying a sleigh led by a flock of baby chicks, Hop supposes that the Easter Bunny has a secret lab on--what else?--Easter Island, where he and a team of possibly enslaved chicks make candy and prepare for the yearly delivery of Easter baskets. The Bunny's son E.B. (Brand's voice) should be all set to take over the empire, but the rambunctious kid just wants to be a rock and roll drummer instead, and lights out to seek his fame and fortune in Hollywood. Meanwhile on those same streets of Los Angeles there's Fred (Marsden), another young man trying to find his purpose who's misunderstood by his own family-- though Fred is less of a starry-eyed teenager than a 30-something lout with no job and no ambition.
There's a lot of telling and not showing in the script by Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul and Bryan Lynch, something that's especially grating in a children's movie with built-in potential for visual storytelling. Fred and E.B. talk a lot before they meet about how they're misunderstood, and when Fred almost hits E.B. with his car and reluctantly takes him home, the two talk a lot more about how much they don't get along, all while spouting off an endless series of lame jokes that are nowhere close to the genuine humor both Marsden and Brand are capable of. A few moments of slapstick liven things up, particularly later in the film when Fred seems to find his true calling working alongside E.B., but for the most part this is a movie convinced that a rabbit pooping jelly beans is the height of comedy.
While Fred and E.B. are off chasing their dreams there's a coup underway back on Easter Island, where an ambitious chick named Carlos (and voiced by Hank Azaria) is planning a coup, rallying the army of chicks who are so deliberately aping the minions from last year's Despicable Me it's galling. That's the case with almost everything in Hop though, taken from better source material and tweaked in ways that make it worse. Despicable Me, the first effort from Illumination Entertainment, carried a lot of surprising wit and charm, but it's back to kiddie film square one for this one, not a promising sign for the nascent animation house that's dying to take on Pixar and DreamWorks. They may bring in some holiday themed cash by talking down to kids and slapping together a story, but with so much other good children's entertainment out there, families ought to know they deserve better.
Reviewed By: Katey Rich
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