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Movie Review

Hop

A hare too uncomfortable: ‘Hop’ intentions are questionable

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By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / April 1, 2011

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‘Hop,’’ a new live-action-animated hybrid, is the sort of children’s-movie wallet-vacuum I imagine certain parents will find impossible to forgive. First, there is the experience of having to sit through it. Russell Brand lends his voice to a computer-generated English rabbit, named E.B., who leaves Easter Island for Hollywood to become a famous drummer. James Marsden lends his voice, his body, and a dismaying amount of enthusiasm to the role of an adult slacker.

This brings me to the problem of the ride home from the movie theater. So many questions! Mom, do rabbits really leave jelly beans as droppings? Does that mean I can eat from the litter box? How come Easter seems so much like Christmas? The Easter Bunny brings toys on a sleigh driven by chicks? And the chicks also make the candy, like elves? Can Santa Claus sue? When does “Gobble,’’ the Thanksgiving movie about the sleigh with frozen turkeys and canned cranberry sauce, come out? Why are so many little Asians in movies and TV so cute and so mean? Why are characters who sound Hispanic in cartoons always lazy or stupid or evil? What’s a “coup’’? Can I say “poop’’? Can we go again tomorrow?

Then there are the concerns an adult might have. Isn’t there an FDA rule against a children’s movie playing “I Want Candy’’ this many times? (After a while, the movie’s title seems to connect a command for addiction.) How, other than in a medical special, could Elizabeth Perkins, who’s 50, and Gary Cole, 54, be Marsden’s parents? He’s 37. At the very least, did Dad go to prison before buying the cozy family house in Van Nuys? Why does David Hasselhoff appear to have more screen time than Perkins and Cole? Does Hugh Laurie know that no one pays just to hear his voice? Shouldn’t we stop paying to hear some of Hank Azaria’s? (He does the voice of the vindictive head chick, Carlos.) Did no one at Universal consider that some of the movie’s audience might be Latin, and that they might be tired of paying to watch stereotypes that might sail over their kids’ heads but are rarely lost on adults?

Watching Perkins and Cole feign amazement at some of the cheap costumes and effects, alongside Kaley Cuoco, of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,’’ who plays their biological daughter (Tiffany Espensen plays their cutthroat Asian adoptee), is a bit desperate, as is most else here. Even so, Brand does manage to play an obnoxious creature with a kind of charm. He feels like the only person who doesn’t need this movie. Marsden, meanwhile, works hard, singing and mugging his heart out. At some point he flashes that billion-dollar grin. It’s a smile that makes you want to shove a dollar between every tooth. In this case, I’d do it to disincentivize a sequel.

“Hop’’ may have taken years to design and animate, but it feels as if minutes were required to compose it. The table blessing on the set must have been concise: “Dear lord, franchise!’’ The director Tim Hill has given us family entertainment ripe to pick up with a Mutt Mitt — “Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties’’ and “Alvin and the Chipmunks.’’ Two of the writers on “Hop’’ — Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul — also wrote the much better “Despicable Me.’’ The lack of fresh ideas is sad, even if some members of the target audience don’t mind. They’ll be too busy snacking on this jelly bean to notice where it came from.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com or followed on Twitter: @wesley_morris.

HOP

Directed by: Tim Hill

Written by: Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch, and Cinco Paul

Starring: James Marsden, and the voices of Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie, and Hank Azaria

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 95 minutes

Rated: PG (singing, some cartoony violence, defecated jelly beans)

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