The story is a simple tale of animal folk: Raccoon steals bear's food, bear promises disembowelment unless the food is returned, raccoon cons hibernators into stealing food from a sudden sprawl of suburbia, animals steal food, raccoon steals it back, loses it and along the way learns some valuable lessons. Moral aside, Over The Hedge is a very intelligent film. Well, an intelligent film with some excellent jokes about wee. Casting a critter's critical eye over our culture of plenty it shows the audience a world where food and shelter aren't luxury, they're survival.
Over The Hedge is immediately engaging; you soon forget they're fuzzy balls of computer generated cuteness and genuinely start to care for the characters. The voice casting is inspired, and even Avril Lavigne manages to convince as a moody teenager without sounding like a pastiche of her skater girl self. But the real genius lies in the casting of Bruce Willis and William Shatner.
Separated from his body, Willis' voice seems 20 years younger. It charms and caresses like gravelly honey, completely convincing as small time shaggy scavenger RJ. It's like watching 'Moonlighting' replayed by the Wombles. Never has Shatner taken himself less seriously than as Ozzie the overacting possum, and his casting may be obvious, but it's also inspired. The animators said they kept the actors in mind as they created the characters, and it shows in every hammy tic and dramatic twitch of the tail. The only thing that could have made it better would be if he'd raised his fuzzy little paws to the heavens and screamed "KHAAAAAAAN!"
The ending is sublime - a slow-mo trip through a save-the-day last ditch dash by a squirrel with ADHD and a head full of Red Bull. The Matrix may have invented bullet time, but only Over The Hedge brings you squirrel time.
Caffeine freak critters, duplicitous raccoons, a highly talented cast and Bill Shatner in overacting overdrive - it's like coming out of hibernation and waking in an animator's playground.