Making the Grades
A lot has happened since the shy turtle Verne (Garry Shandling) and his furry friends settled down in their hollow log for a long winter's nap. While they were hibernating, suburbia sprung up all around them, replacing their forest with meticulously manicured lawns. Now an imposing hedge corners the critters in the last remaining piece of the wild.
Anxious about the new development, the animals wring their hands with worry until RJ (Bruce Willis) shows up and lets them in on a secret. According to the smooth-talking raccoon, humans have more food than they can possibly eat and that means the varmints' foraging troubles are over. On the other side of the hedgerow, there's a glut of nacho chips, soda pop and prepackaged goodies ready for the taking.
After one nibble of the preservative-packed junk food, the pals are hooked on sugar rushes and caffeine jolts. Although Verne grows cautious when his tingling tail warns him everything is not as it seems, he can't deny it's easier to raid the garbage cans, steal picnic goodies and commandeer cookies than it is to search the shrinking woods for berries. So despite his uneasy feeling, Verne joins two porcupine parents (Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy), a feisty skunk (Wanda Sykes), a hyperactive squirrel (Steve Carell), and a pair of possums (William Shatner and Avril Lavigne) on their stealthy raids for winter supplies.
Unfortunately the little group of four-footed scavengers doesn't realize RJ has another motivation for amassing the groceries. Nor do they know about the rancorous homeowners' association president (Allison Janney) who keeps a domineering eye on the neighborhood. The moment she spots the creatures sneaking into the community, she's on the phone for an exterminator (Thomas Hayden Church).
Cartoon violence ensues when the critters are attacked by children, whacked by adults, chased by dogs and hit by an SUV. They also have to outmaneuver a minefield of traps set by the unrelenting animal control officer. Moments of rude humor, mild sexually suggestive comments, some name-calling and an embarrassed, naked turtle are portrayed as well.
Based on a comic strip by Michael Fry and T. Lewis, Over the Hedge keenly assesses human excesses and mankind's general lack of consideration for nature. Yet it manages to do so in an entertaining way that will engage most children. For adult viewers, the script includes references to classic films like Citizen Kane, Star Wars and The Terminator. Even TV guru, Dr. Phil, weighs in with some timely advice.
While venturing through the protective barrier proves to be an eye-opening experience for these little woodland dwellers, Over the Hedge may be an equally enlightening look at our own society's voracious appetite for snack food and big cars.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Over The Hedge.
How does this film portray society’s consumerism? What effect does the excess of possessions have on wildlife? In what other ways do the human encroach upon the animals?
The little group of animals call themselves a family. What kinds of families are depicted within the larger group? Why do most of the animals so readily accept RJ? What effect does his lack of honesty have on their family unit?
How do the animals respond to the junk food? What concerns does Verne have about the new food source? How does he try to maintain their normal lifestyle? What health problems can arise from an exclusive diet of chips, pop, cookies etc?