The opening sequence of Hop is not only entertaining but a visual feast that conjures images of Gene Wilder and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Sadly, the effort and care that went into crafting this sequence is absent from almost every other frame of the film.
Our story centers around two selfish and somewhat unlikeable characters. The first is E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) who leaves Easter Island days before he’s scheduled to take on the responsibilities as the new Easter Bunny. E.B. would rather play the drums than be burdened by the duty being asked of him by his father (Hugh Laurie), the current Easter Bunny.
James Marsden stars as our second lead, the lazy and unfocused Fred O’Hare (O’Hare, get it? *sigh*) still looking for that “dare to be great opportunity.” His parents (Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins) would just like for him to find a “get a job and move out of the house opportunity.”
The two meet and begin the usual type of odd-couple friendship you find in most buddy comedies. The trouble is neither gives us a reason to care about them. E.B. is running away from his troubles (and the only good set piece in the entire movie), and Fred gives new meaning to the word slacker.
There are also subplots involving David Hasselhoff (as himself) and a greedy chick (voiced Hank Azaria) who uses E.B.’s absence to attempt to take control of the Easter Island candy facility. The first comes off simply cheesy, and the second might have led somewhere had the story stayed on Easter Island. Instead it feels mostly like a distraction from the story’s main focus – the friendship between Fred and E.B.
I think the characters I enjoyed most were the adorable Pink Beret covert ops team sent to find E.B. and bring him home. Had they gotten any more screentime they might have stolen the film. Their inclusion in their own cartoon would be the only thing that would make me give this one a second chance on DVD.
I’m going to take a moment to mention The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco who is mostly wasted in a small role as Fred’s kind but concerned sister. Aside from one sweet scene with E.B., Cuoco struggles here in raising her game from her regular sitcom gig to a big screen performance. It also doesn’t help that cinematogrpaher Peter Lyons Collister can’t seem to figure out a flattering way in which to shoot her. Have you seen this girl? Seriously, it shouldn’t be that hard.
The commercials for Hop are marketing it as from the creators of Despicable Me. That’s true, sort of. Screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio did give us the script for Despicable Me, but that was adapted from a story by Sergio Pablos. Here they’re on their own with a wholly original tale, and it shows. And the directing team of the first film has also been replaced with Tim Hill (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Max Keeble’s Big Move, Muppets from Space). Once again the isn’t an improvement.
As much as the commercials try to group the two films together there’s really no comparison. Despicable Me was a surprisingly fun and, at times, touching, take on an evil scientist and his relationship with three precocious orphaned girls. Hop is about a bunny who wants to play the drums and a slacker who doesn’t want to do anything. Guess which one I enjoyed more?
Hop isn’t an awful film. The CGI is quite good, and despite his character the cuteness of E.B. does start to rub off on you. However, the movie spends far too much time going through the motions and leaves its best storyline behind on the island for a the kind of awkward buddy comedy that never leads anywhere. It reminded me of the old Disney live action flicks from the 60’s and 70’s starring the likes of Dean Jones and Ken Berry. Some of them were quite entertaining, and, much like Hop, some are much better off forgotten.