OVER THE HEDGE (Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick, USA, 9)
I’ve been annoyed by previous Dreamworks’ animated films (like A SHARK’S TALE here; I make reference to SHREK) — with their “decadent po-mo flaunting of in-jokes only adults will get” and “seem[ing] to be more interested in replicating the consumer culture and its pop-culture baubles … with [creatures that] get personified, homogenized and flattened into the same pop-culture stereotypes as everything else.” But with OVER THE HEDGE, Dreamworks produces its best animated movie precisely by making these tendencies the subject matter of the film.
HEDGE stars animals who, during the course of the film, are threatened by human development and their own love for it. They wake up from hibernation to find their forest mostly turned into a uniformly faceless subdivision (named Camelot, amusingly). But then a shyster raccoon with his own agenda (voiced by Bruce Willis) and tells them “why don’t you get food food from the humans?” and sells suburbia to the animals in an incredible montage sequence that both follows and parodies those “buy your dream” PowerPoint presentations, culminating in the unveiling of nature’s most-perfect food — the nacho-cheese chip. And his description to the other animals of the SUV is priceless and perfectly delivered up to the brilliant punchline (“one”). But here’s the deal — rather than being threatened, the animals take to it like a fish to water, especially the kids. They fill their food stock in a couple of days, leaving them nothing to do for the remaining 270 before their next hibernation. Abundance enervates. We get into quarrels over Monopoly tokens, comparison of life to video games (“this is just like Auto Homicide 3″) and John Tesh DVDs. In other words, this is basically the ultimate Crunchy Con movie (Rod; if you’re reading this, see OVER THE HEDGE. And take Matthew and Lucas.) The animals become more “humanized” and acclimated to human ways, degrading them, taking them away from (their) nature, alienating them into forgetfulness of Being (“dat ist called Seinsvergessenheit” … “shut up, Heidegger”).
Part of the charm and the reason for the film’s success is the voice casting — which isn’t show-offy or has celebrities obviously “playing themselves.” It’s like Tim Allen and Tom Hanks in the TOY STORY movies — who never echo Home Improvement or Forrest Gump (or Ellen DeGeneres in FINDING NEMO). Wanda Sykes was the only voice in OVER THE HEDGE I instantly “spotted,” but she has a really distinctive voice (and she, thus appropriately, also has The Character Role). But Garry Shandling as a nervous-but-sensible turtle — that’s just perfect, without being eccentric. As is Steve Carell as a hyperactive squirrel. Willis basically plays his “Moonlighting” role, but without specifically reminding you of David Addison until you look back at the cast list. Even William Shatner, you have to strain your ears to figure out … it’s *him.* Shatner. Really. I mean — *really* Shatner. Really.
The movie and pop-culture in-jokes are hit-and-miss but somehow I found them less annoying than I did in SHREK and SHARK’S TALE. The CLOSE ENCOUNTERS joke was really funny (and well-hidden); the CITIZEN KANE reference less so (I saw it coming). And while I also saw coming the reversal of the Pepe LePew scenario — dressing up a skunk as a cat to seduce a real cat — I admired the film followed it to the end, and made it consistent with Sykes’ persona and voice. But can we please have a moratorium on characters named “Stella” until screenwriters have learned to resist parodying Marlon Brando? But since even the pop-culture jokes are intrinsic to what the movie is about — the spread of contemporary suburban culture and its threats to a “natural” life — even when they miss, I didn’t resent them. You don’t have to be Naomi Klein to think that life is not about what you own and what brands you use (the fact that the film is a satire of consumerist suburbia means there is no actual product-placement that I recall). The drawing is elemental, spare, with bright colors and not-too-many eccentric angles and “look what I can do with depth of field” showing off). The human characters are flamboyantly bad, even the Type-A psycho-bitch who had the best line, one worthy of STRANGELOVE — “I can’t be arrested. I’m president of a homeowners’ association.” And finally, any movie that has a joke based on the Theory of General Relativity must be awesome.
Personal point, not related to the movie per se. I deliberately saw OVER THE HEDGE as part of the Other-cott of THE DA VINCI [sic] CRAP. I went with a bunch of Church friends on the Saturday afternoon of opening weekend, one of whom was this guy. David’s been in a very bad place of late, after Holy Week brought him the death of his father and a car-wreck hospitalization. I happened to sit next to him and he was yukking it up like I’ve never seen him. I tease David a lot about economics-related issues (he once called me “Boss Tweed” and a robber baron), and so based on the trailer, I suspected that he would take to OVER THE HEDGE like catnip. I felt glad that, for atwo hours at least, he forgot about it all and just had an uproarious good time.
My reactionary papistbud Michael Gerardi saw THE DAVINCI CODE.
I have spent time more productively — watching “Man Show” reruns on the G4 channel. One of the sketches they had was “Movies Men Don’t Want to See.” And after describing such fare as ROSEANNE GETS NAKED, either Jimmy or Adam (whoever didn’t describe the movie) would say something disgusting or humiliating like “I’d rather wear Sally Jessy Raphael’s thong underwear as a ski-mask. While she was in them — than see that movie.” So in that spirit, these are:
Things Victor Would Rather Do Than Watch THE DAVINCI CODE
I would rather receive a pair of boxing gloves from Mike Tyson, with a card that says “let’s whisper sweet nothings again, Evander” — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather go to Mecca during the Hajj and smear myself in bacon while wearing a burkha patterned after the Danish flag — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather moderate a debate between Fred Phelps and Rosie O’Donnell in the Tehran University student union while eating shards of broken glass so small they only leave paper cuts on my tongue — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather be the unborn child of Chelsea Clinton after Hillary finds out about her daughter’s affair with Sean Hannity. Which included a threesome with Rush Limbaugh — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather take a class on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion under Juan Cole’s new post at Yale, with Sayed Hashemi as his TA and Sami al-Arian as guest lecturer. No pass-fail allowed — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather have the Confederate flag tattooed onto my face for a Nation of Islam convention. While wearing an LAPD uniform with the badge marked “Fuhrman” — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather give Larry Flynt a piggy-back ride to the top of a Mayan temple, on the honeymoon cruise after our “wedding” sanctified by the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather lead a caravan of Toyotas sporting Wal-Mart stickers while wearing a frilly waitress outfit at an AFL-CIO convention that the Hell’s Angels are crashing — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather be Jane Fonda’s PR outreach guy to the VFW and American Legion. And be paid from the grosses from MONSTER-IN-LAW — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather have my Cancun timeshare be next to J-Lo’s during the week she has PMS and sees the grosses from MONSTER-IN-LAW. And GIGLI — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather go to the Centre Pompidou during the Jean-Luc Godard retro and use a toothbrush and my tongue to clean the outhouses (that’s where the film prints should be) — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather glue my testicles to my penis with Krazy Glue. During a worldwide shortage of nail-polish-remover — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather be stationed at the one-mile mark of the New York City Marathon and have to massage and apply ointment to the inside thighs of a just-collapsed Michael Moore — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather get a ride home over the Potomac on St. Patrick’s Day night from Ted Kennedy. Without there even being a chick in the back seat — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather watch a stripoff between Bea Arthur and Roseanne. With the loser nursing the winner — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather be the first 12-year-old Bahraini boy to spend the night at Michael Jackson’s new pad, on the day after FedEx delivers his monthly supplies of Jesus Juice and Cialis — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather have Lars Von Trier tell me I’d be ideal for the lead of his new movie. Once I had a sex change — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather watch the “uncensored” video of what really happened “behind the scenes” during Cindy Sheehan’s visit to Hugo Chavez — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather be a drummer for Spinal Tap — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather be married to OJ Simpson — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather be OJ Simpson — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather wear an external scapular, an alb and chasuble, and have rosary beads hanging from my waist pocket a meeting of the Jack Chick Admiration Society — than see THE DAVINCI CODE. (Well actually, that’s pretty much the same thing as my seeing to THE DAVINCI CODE.)
I would rather have to pick Cynthia McKinney out of a lineup the day after she had a new hairdo — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather get a 100 score from match.com as the perfect partner for Liza Minnelli — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather tell the Mississippi KKK Kleagle that his 11-year-old runaway daughter has been recovered, thanks to a tip from someone who saw her in an R. Kelly video — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather be a fly stuck in the mashed potatoes, on the spoon of Oprah Winfrey after she learns Steadman had an affair with Paris Hilton — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
I would rather drink a quart of Rohypnol an hour before my date with the Duke lacrosse team — than see THE DAVINCI CODE.
Ridley Scott’s upcoming film on the Crusades will probably not get 1/10th the criticism as anti-Christian that Mel Gibson’s got as anti-Semitic, but some British historians are at least fighting the good fight in warning that the film, at the basic plot level, is “rubbish”, “ridiculous”, “complete fiction” and a pander to Muslim self-glorification. And some Christians are refusing for whatever reason to cooperate with Scott in his effort to “hope that the Muslim world sees the rectification of history.”
Obviously “panders to Osama bin Laden” in the first Telegraph piece is a crude bit of oversimplification, but as crude bits of oversimplification go, it’s not inaccurate. Scott’s movie seems to accept the basic narrative of the jihadis (and much of Islam) about the Crusades — namely that they were an act of Christian aggression and a humiliation of Islam.
I wonder whether Scott will ever ask how the Muslims came to be in control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the first place (hint: Muhammad wasn’t born in Nazareth). Although the specific timing issues are more complex, in the broadest sweep of history, the Crusades were basically counterattacks against an Islam that had been expanding for 400 years, not Christian aggression — unless you subscribe to some al-Brezhnev Doctrine of permanent Muslim expansion and fated dhimmitude. And although the Christians were sometimes successful for a time, Islam emerged victorious in the end. It wasn’t for 300 or 400 years after the final Crusade (Lepanto 1571 and Vienna 1683) that Christendom no longer had to seriously fear conquest by Islam. The Holy Land itself was ruled by one or another Muslim group until the 20th century; the narrative of all-conquering Christian bullies and weak, peaceful Muslim victims only reaches the level of laughable in the past 200 years.
But as long as artists from the nations of Christendom present the Muslim view of history and show positive images of warriors for Islam, said artistes will be the happiest heathen Crusaders in the grave.