After nearly a year since it came to theaters, the Easter-themed movie Hop bounded its way onto DVD last week, understandably timed to take advantage of the religious holiday once again. An animated/live-action blend, Hop is more tolerable than other recent films in the sub-genre, though comparing the movie to the likes of Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks doesn't say a whole lot. In other words, the movie will entertain very young kids and not insult parents, but is no comedy classic.
A better comparison for Hop is to Arthur Christmas, which was fully animated but also served as a rare contribution to the family holiday film genre. Arthur Christmas is about the son of Santa who manages to muck things up and then sets out to make things right. Hop is about the son of the Easter bunny who runs away, effectively mucking up his father's succession plans, but eventually sets out to make things right.
Arthur Christmas is funny and oozes with holiday spirit.
Hop is not very funny and oozes with very little holiday spirit.
In all fairness, Christmas is a much more secular holiday that, regardless of religious affiliation, inspires an entire season of decorations, gifts and funny traditions. Easter more or less comes and goes in a heartbeat, and involves at best an Easter egg hunt for chocolates and jelly beans and at worst a trip to church.
Then again, the marketing geniuses at Universal Pictures were onto something when they looked to tap into the holiday. After all, how many movies about the Easter bunny are there, really? The execution just isn't there.
Hop is about a lazy man (James Marsden) who has yet to find his calling. When E.B., a talking bunny who claims he's next in line to be the Easter bunny, shows up at his door, he is reluctantly drawn into the rabbit's adventure, which entails the long-earned mammal pursuing his dream to join a rock band. Of course, E.B. eventually accepts that he can't escape his destiny, and the journey allows his human counterpart to realize his.
The problem with having an Easter movie where the main character is a sarcastic, obnoxious bunny who has no interest in the holiday (the secular version of the holiday, that is) is that Hop doesn't tap into the sense of wonder and excitement children have when they wake up Easter morning to discover candy is hidden all over their house, or yard, or wherever family tradition dictates (and if you don't hide candy for your children on Easter, shame on you! Let them have some fun!). I don't recall ever really believing that the Easter bunny came to my house the way I believed in Santa, but I loved waking up early to race against my brother to find the most candy. It was always a [tasty] blast.
I loved Arthur Christmas because the movie tapped so squarely into this sense of holiday excitement, looking at the whole operation of Christmas in a way that children might imagine it. The title character was obsessed with the holiday, and every little detail contributed to the overall sense that the movie was indeed a Christmas movie.
Hop is about a talking rabbit, and aside from showing a little of the Easter bunny operation early on and a few moments at the end, it has nothing to do with Easter.
Plot aside, the movie just feels like a children's movie made without taking into account a child's perspective. Kids don't care about the live-action humans, especially when their stories are so uninteresting (even I don't care what career James Marsden's character will fail at next). Hop should be wondrous, entertaining, exciting and funny all at once, and strive to extend the legacy of the Easter bunny. But it is none of those things.
On the positive side, Hop isn't nearly as painful to watch as director Tim Hill's other contributions to cinema, such as Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kittens,, even if the same failed formula is used (mixing uninteresting human characters with annoying animated creatures).
Parents could do worse than Hop, but just because it's the only Easter movie on the market doesn't mean they need to waste their time, energy or money to dull their children's minds just a little more.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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