Hop

When we last saw director Tim Hill, he was perched behind the camera, bringing us the abysmal Alvin and the Chipmunks. Well, after a four-year break (exile, maybe?), he’s back with Hop, an Easter Bunny tale featuring the voices of Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie, and Hank Azaria.

Apparently the time off did him some good.

Illumination Entertainment’s first feature was last fall’s very fun, all-animated Despicable Me, but with Hop, the studio decided to blend live action and animation, and the result’s just about as good as you could hope for. At the very least, it’s miles better than recent half-human/half-drawn duds like the two Chipmunk movies, Yogi Bear, and Marmaduke.

The Easter Bunny (Laurie) is getting ready to turn the reins of the family business over to his son E.B. (Brand). And what a business it is. The headquarters on (where else?) Easter Island are home to an operation that almost eclipses the toy-making gig Santa’s got up at the North Pole. Chocolate bunnies are rolling down the assembly line, marshmallow Peeps are pushed out by the hundreds, and jelly beans cascade down from a hundred-foot-tall fountain. The only trouble is (well, the only two troubles are) that E.B. wants to instead be a drummer in a rock band, and that the Easter Bunny’s second in command, a Latino (huh?) chick named Carlos (Azaria), is fed up with being second fiddle; he wants to run the show himself.

Meanwhile in the real world, James Marsden is Fred O’Hare (get it?), an L.A. slacker who’s jobless and still living with his parents (Elizabeth McGovern and Gary Cole). Of course it’s only a matter of time before E.B. and Fred find each other (we learn in the prologue that Fred becomes the first non-bunny Easter Bunny). Sure enough, E.B. runs away to Hollywood, and after trying unsuccessfully to get into the Playboy Mansion (Get it? Bunnies!), he lands on Fred’s doorstep.

After getting over the initial shock that he’s able to carry on a conversation with a bunny, Fred and E.B. go off on a series of adventures that include an odd Chelsea Handler cameo, an amusing David Hasselhoff cameo, and a particularly funny scene at Fred’s sister’s school play. Marsden is perfectly-cast as Fred, and he does a great job, considering his co-star wasn’t even there during filming.

The screenplay, by the same writers of Despicable Me, lacks that movie’s originality and intelligent humor, and, frankly, the plot jumps around too much with too many subplots, but Hill actually does a decent job pulling everything together. Sure, a good twenty minutes could have been chopped and better used elsewhere, but there aren’t any fatal flaws in Hop.

The important thing, obviously, is that it’s a pretty solid, fun time for kids of all ages. The good news for you is that it’s not in 3D.

And, if nothing else, it (and Despicable Me) bodes well for Illumination’s next feature– 2012’s The Lorax.

3/5 stars