Over the Hedge

Opens at Metro and others theaters, Fri., May 19. Rated PG. 96 minutes.

So you think those pesky squirrels and raccoons don't have an ulterior motive when they're sifting through your trash? This CG-animated kid flick puts woodland creatures fresh out of hibernation right in the middle of our fat, rich, garbage-a-rific suburbs, on a forced mission to appease a bear who threatens to eat them unless alternatives are provided.

The voice casting of each character is right on. William Shatner's overdramatic, overprotective opossum is a hammy thespian whose goal in life is the perfect death scene. ("Playing possum is what we do. We die so that we live!") He plays the character in true Shatner fashion, like a nutty Shakespearean actor. Steve Carell voices a hyper, cracked-out squirrel who provides most of the big laughs. In one scene, high on taurine, he speeds around so fast he makes the Earth come to a halt. Bruce Willis is the suave and crafty raccoon leader of the gang. Who wouldn't listen to him? He's Bruce Willis.

And yet, despite the pratfalls, crashes, and explosions, Hedge isn't all fun and games. Urban sprawl and overconsumption are indicted in a gentle but pointed environmental lesson for the kiddies. The tone is both goofy and comprehendible—an SUV is explained thusly: "Humans ride around in it because they are slowly losing their ability to walk."

So it makes you wonder how seriously parents will take that message as they haul their kids to the multiplex in an Escalade, tossing McDonald's wrappers out the window along the way. It probably doesn't make it any better knowing that Hedge's marketing partner is Wal-Mart. Then again, who takes cartoons seriously anyway?

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