This may be the year that a movie NOT being in 3D makes it a novelty. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration.
Nonetheless, its two-dimensional presentation certainly earns a movie extra points in my book. Which, in the case of Hop, is about the best I can say about it.
Otherwise, Hop is a big-budget comedy that mixes live action and computer animation. A few years ago, a seamless blend like this one – with sophisticated CG imagery – would have earned an automatic “wow.” These days, however, you can nearly generate images this perfect on a home computer. Perfection is no longer a goal; it’s the baseline from which movies start.
Which means that like all other movies, a film like Hop comes down to its script. And the writing by a trio of writers whose most impressive credit is Despicable Me is dreary: forced, unfunny, juvenile without actually being stupid enough to provke a laugh. Or maybe that’s the direction of Tim Hill, whose resume is trainwreck of films like Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties.
The film starts on Easter Island, secret home of the Easter Bunny (a clever thought, but that’s as far as it goes). After a pro forma prologue to set up the two main characters as children, we jump to the future, where the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie) is trying to whip his son E.B. (Russell Brand) into shape to take over the family mantle as springtime’s answer to Santa Claus. E.B., however, would rather be a rock’n’roll drummer – and so escapes to Hollywood.
(A digression: At one point, Dad tells son that this is a tradition that goes back “4,000 years.” Which would, it seems, make the case for Easter being celebrated 2.000 years before Jesus was born, let alone died. Wonder how that will play with any fundamentalists who are paying attention and can do the math.)
Parallel plotline: Fred (James Marsden) is an L.A. slacker whose parents (an ill-used Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins) want him to get a job and move out of the house. On his way to a house-sitting gig in Beverly Hills (courtesy of his sister, played the equally ill-used Kaley Cuoco), Fred’s car hits E.B. So they meet cute, then squabble continually for an hour before actually bonding.
The subplot involves a chick (one of those little fuzzy yellow ones) named Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria), who is the Easter Bunny’s right-hand man at the candy factory. Carlos covets the Easter Bunny’s job and, eventually, foments a coup against the boss to take over Easter for himself.
David Hasselhoff shows up playing himself (E.B. enters his talent contest), as does Hugh Hefner’s voice (when E.B. shows up at the Playboy Mansion, looking for other bunnies). Har har – the kids are going to split a gut over that one. Marsden pops his eyes and otherwise mugs his way through a movie that offers anemic punchlines, when it thinks to offer punchlines at all.
The kids at the screening I attended laughed intermittently, mostly at the slapstick. But even that leaves Hop a movie with little hope of bringing a smile to your face.