Before DreamWorks Animation made "Kung Fu Panda" in 2008, their computer-animated movies were more fun comedies rather than funny and emotional films like Pixar was putting out. Looking back on them, I feel that most of them have still held up and are fun to watch to this day. They just had a funny nature to them and were good movies to watch for a laugh and for something fun. Whenever we think back to their animated movies during that time, the two most common films brought up were "Shrek" and "Madagascar" and yet one film that often gets sidelined is "Over the Hedge". It might be because it was released in 2006 which was a pretty bad year for animated movies, but I do feel that it should get talked about more often because it still is pretty fun. It's easily one of the most fun films DreamWorks put out during that time and I really had a lot of fun watching it.
When a raccoon named RJ (Bruce Willis) loses the food of a hibernating bear named Vincent (Nick Nolte), he is given one week by the bear to get him the same food back in one week or otherwise he will be killed. RJ eventually comes across a couple of forest animals, including a turtle named Verne (Garry Shandling), a squirrel named Hammy (Steve Carrell), a skunk named Stella (Wanda Sykes), a possum named Ozzy (William Shanter) and his daughter Heather (Avril Lavigne), and a porcupine family named Lou (Eugene Levy), Penny (Catherine O'Hara) and their three kids, who discover that most of their forest has been replaced by suburbia and that their forest and the new houses are separated by a giant hedge. Getting an idea, RJ enlists the animals to gather the food so he can repay Vincent without telling them why much to the skepticism of Verne while trying to avoid the wrath of the HOA president Gladys Sharp (Allison Janney) and an exterminator known as the Verminator (Thomas Haden Church).
I was genuinely surprised to discover how much the film still works almost fifteen years later. The film is based on a newspaper comic strip of the same name by Michael Fry and T. Lewis and directed by Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick. Together they really bring their best talents and create something that's both very funny and often satirical. The story isn't huge or groundbreaking, but it sure is fun. It often takes stab at the life of the suburbs and tops it off with jokes that mostly get laughs every minute. These are jokes that have really held up well and I was surprised to discover that the film hasn't even really dated considering it came out in 2006. Apart from the use of flip phones which do come off as dated, the film still feels relevant and works well all these years later. Even the songs performed by Ben Folds were a great touch with their clever satire and it brought out some of his best work oddly enough. As far as the animation goes, this animation still looks great for 2006 standards. I especially love the character designs of the animal characters. They come from character designer Nico Marlet who would go on to make great designs for films like "Kung Fu Panda" and "How to Train Your Dragon" and his work on all of the animals still look amazing. Even the major human characters look pretty good as well. I can't say the same for the background human characters though as they do come off looking a little dated and unappealing at times. Fortunately, they were kept out of most of the film as the only two human characters that mattered were Gladys and the Verminator. Every other character was simply there for a scene where the animals could steal something from them, but I felt that it worked perfectly fine. Speaking of the characters, I feel like they were truly the highlights of the film and definitely what made the film fun in my opinion. Most of it comes down to the fantastic voice actors since this was a perfectly cast animated film. I do know that Bruce Willis wasn't originally supposed to play RJ as the role was supposed to be played by Jim Carrey, but the latter dropped out of the film so Willis was cast instead. Looking back on it, that was the wise choice as Willis makes RJ suave and cool which is a role that suited him more than Carrey who is known for rather manic and crazy roles. The others are fun to with Verne being resourceful and helpful, Hammy being hyper and fast, Ozzy being manic and over the top, and Stella being sassy and sarcastic. These characters were all funny and memorable. Though I think the one character that really stood out to me was Gladys Sharp. She was so over the top and insane which is a risky move for a villainous character, but she works perfectly and Allison Janney brings the right level of madness to her. If I had to pinpoint a major problem with the movie, it's that most of the animal characters did seem underdeveloped. Considering the film's short length, I do feel like I wanted to know more about some of the characters like Stella or Ozzy. They do mention something briefly regarding the character at the beginning of the film which is brought in later and resolved very quickly without proper development and I just found that pretty lazy. It didn't work for me entirely well.
Still, I think "Over the Hedge" is a funny film that still holds up. The story is funny and has some great satire, the animation is really good and has some great character designs, and the characters are all fun even if some are a little underdeveloped. I recommend giving this film another watch if you haven't seen it in a while. It's definitely one of DreamWorks' most underrated animated films from the last decade and I think it still holds up pretty well. It still rocks the suburbs in my book.