Mania Grade: C-
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- Starring: Russell Brand, James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Hank Azaria, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, Hugh Laurie, David Hasselhoff
- Written by: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch
- Directed by: Tim Hill
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Run Time: 94 minutes
- Rating: PG
Mania Review: Hop
The Easter Bunny has no genitalia. That is all.
By Rob Vaux
April 01, 2011
© Universal Pictures/Robert Trate
You can’t fault Hop for not appealing to its target demographic. The screening I attended was filled with five-and six-year-olds absolutely entranced by its holiday-themed mayhem. Accusing the kiddies of being insufficiently critical really misses the point. They love it and that’s enough for most babysitter movies. Plop the wee ones down in front of Hop and you can be reasonably assured they won’t get into the kitchen knives.
Having said that, it’s not like parents don’t have the tools to deliver something better. Tangled just came out on DVD, Gnomeo and Juliet is still kicking around theaters, and Rio opens in a couple of weeks … not to mention the oceans of solid material just a Netflix queue away. Kids might enjoy it, but they’ll enjoy a number of other things more, and Hop really doesn’t deliver much to justify their attention.
The story follows E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), son of the Easter Bunny and first in line for the old man’s job. He’s not sure he wants it, however, and like a million wayward sons before him, runs away rather than dealing with it head on. He eventually meets up with a thirty-something slacker (James Marsden) who doesn’t much like him, but hangs out with him for reasons not entirely clear. His absence also gives the Easter Bunny’s right-hand chick (voiced by Hank Azaria) a chance to seize power.
Director Tim Hill falls into the classic trap for movies like this: spending so much time on the concept design and rendering that little things like plot and character vanish beneath the smoke. E.B. looks fantastic, as do the film’s other CG-animated characters, and he interacts with Marsden in a completely plausible manner. Unfortunately, neither of them display any consistency of personality. They twist and turn according to the dictates of the plot, acting solely to provide more contrived one-liners instead of letting us get to know and care about them. Marsden’s unfortunately named Fred O’Hare segues from really wanting a job one moment to actively blowing it off the next, while E.B. goes from helpful confidant to annoying pest whenever the anemic screenplay needs a boost.
Good jokes would cancel a lot of that out, but while the occasional gag hits home, most of them stem from the tired formula of pop culture minutia and uninspired pratfalls. A number of scenes hinge on keeping E.B.s’ presence a secret, which is very important… except when it’s not, in which case humans accept him without batting an eyelash. The lame “grown-up” gags deliver only ill-conceived cameos (David Hasselhoff apparently exists in a constant state of inebriation these days), and the half-assed “fluffy chick” rebellion subplot doesn’t begin to sort out its plethora of logic problems. Hop can’t even find anything funny to do with Kaley Cuoco, who plays Marsden’s well-meaning sister and exists mainly to move the dubious narrative from one point to the next. This woman can elicit a laugh with nothing more than a raised eyebrow; the film’s utter inability to capitalize on that says everything you need to know about its priorities.
Again, however, the core audience is unlikely to care. Hill refrains from scatological humor (save for a few minor bits about jellybeans) and the pacing keeps a nice even keel. Hop neither succumbs to undue boredom, nor moves things so spastically fast that we can’t follow what’s going on. Given those qualities, I suppose you could do worse. But you can also do better – a lot better – and so can Hop. With so many children’s movies based around Christmas, the Easter Bunny constitutes largely uncharted territory. How frustrating that this foray chooses the safe and timid route… and eliminates its chances of delivering anything interesting in the process.