Hop is a live-action film that’s infiltrated with a few CGI rabbits and countless chicks, and director Tom Hill (Alvin and the Chipmunks; Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties) came along for the ride, so I was initially fearful of an Alvin-esque nightmare. While this movie doesn’t quite hit those same insufferable heights, there are certain similar absurdities at hand. After all, Hop’s main character is a talking bunny that poops jellybeans, which are inadvertently consumed by unsuspecting humans. The good news is that Illumination Pictures (Despicable Me) keeps enough of a handle on the picture to prevent a completely offensive disaster from occurring, but Despicable’s writers (Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio) display an appalling lack of ingenuity with this Easter-themed tale. Overall, Hop wants to be a sugary confection of an adventure but entirely lacks any feeling behind its characters’ motivations and the story itself. It’s like candy corn in that you’ll eat it if nothing else is there (and you’re absolutely starving), but it doesn’t satisfy the sweet tooth at all.
This failure, oddly enough, has very little to do with the fact that, in certain circles, Hop could be viewed as just another Russell Brand superstardom vehicle. Obviously, the bloke has seen fit to cross over to our side of the pond and yell as loud as possible to get his point across in anything less than the X-rated manner with which he’s authentically entertained audiences for most of his onstage life. Generally speaking, Brand’s charm has yet to translate into mass appeal for us Yanks (and the upcoming Arthur remake might not help matters), but he’s a bloody wondrous voice talent who was anything but recognizable in Despicable and emits an appropriately charismatic air as the Easter Bunny in waiting. As E.B., he even manages to describe himself as a “sexy bunny” while hoping to gain entrance to the Playboy Mansion; admittedly, the writers could have done much better than this softball joke, but Brand’s tenor lends nothing but genuine hope to a rabbit that desperately wants a place to sleep for the night. It’s an innocuous throwaway moment that could have turned out much worse with a less skilled voice actor and, ironically, one of the few genuine moments in which we’re tempted to feel anything at all for any of the characters in this movie.
Hop tells the tale of two kindred slacker souls, E.B. and Fred O’Hare (James Marsden), who’ve both been shackled by the curse of too much untapped potential. Fred’s dad, Henry (Gary Cole), just wants his chronically unemployed adult son to get a job and find an apartment of his own, but E.B. has a more pressing need to avoid his destiny. His father (voiced by Hugh Laurie) is the reigning Easter Bunny, who wants his son to take over the family business in the near future; but E.B. runs away from his (enormously privileged) life on Easter Island all the way to Hollywood to pursue his lifelong dreams of becoming a world-famous drummer. By the time two errant sons cross paths, the parallel storyline has collapsed upon itself because it’s just too difficult to believe that such a clean, sober, and normal guy like Fred could be such a colossal fuck up in life. Further, the execution of Fred’s family dynamics are rather bizarre since 37-year old Marsden, in a purely physical sense, can no longer pull off playing a guy in his 20s; emotionally speaking, Marsden is also a psychic drain upon this movie, despite the fact that he previously demonstrated comic chops and enormous presence (even alongside a CGI chipmunk) in Enchanted. Here, he falls flat in a number of ways as he learns to hop like a bunny, run hurdles over bushes while hoisting baskets filled with hand-dyed eggs, and fly through the sky in an enormous faberge egg. Seriously.
In the end, both E.B. and Fred find ways to put their dreams in perspective and achieve their preferred destinies, but Hop is merely a visually appealing children’s movie that really doesn’t have a reason to exist beyond being just another holiday-themed cash grab at the multiplex. While the scenes on Easter Island portray a gorgeous, lush existence centered around a candy-themed factory that prepares all of the yearly confectionaries to be delivered by the rabbit in charge, the story just isn’t worth pursuing for the cost of a family outing. Again, Hop does contain moments of slight redemption when it comes to the voice work, including that of Hank Azaria (the guy makes an absolute killing in kid movies these days), who voices two of the CGI characters, including a power-hungry, Spanish-accented chick named Carlos that’s intent upon overthrowing the rabbit-led version of Easter. Ultimately however, Hop attempts to whip up a super-sweet ending that spoils the appetite for any amount of chocolate and is unworthy of anything but a DVD viewing.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.