Zoo Story


At this late date, it’s hard to tell one digitally rendered talking animal from another. Madagascar blends into Ice Age looks like Shark Tale sounds like Shrek might as well be A Bug’s Life turns into Antz feels like Chicken Little could be Over the Hedge, which is really just Madagascar in the suburbs anyway. Animated petting zoos were once glorious places to visit, tended to by masters who turned Walt Disney’s childhood fantasies into immortal fairy tales. Lady and the Tramp all by its lonesome is worth a dozen of these meat-grinders—crude commodities, plush toys, and product placements in search of a story from which to hang their price tags.

It feels like I’ve already seen Over the Hedge
four times, after witnessing the parade of commercials for other junk its characters are pimping. Perhaps it makes perfect sense: The entire movie’s built around a scenario that involves the stealing and hoarding of junk food. A swindling raccoon named RJ (Bruce Willis) must fill the cave of a grizzly (Nick Nolte) with grocery store goodies before he devours RJ instead. So he enlists the aid of some naive turtles and squirrels and possums and porcupines and skunks—voiced by the likes of Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, William Shatner, Wanda Sykes, and Avril Lavigne, because these movies are nothing without their famous voices—to sack the suburbs for some treats. It’s been said of Over the Hedge, both the original comic strip and the movie, that it’s intended as satire—a jab at our unhealthy lifestyles of junk food and TV gorging. But you can’t sincerely say something about the crassness of consumerism at the same time you’re trying to unload the store.