Hop has one of the cutest bunnies you’ll ever see and plenty of other eye candy among its computer-generated visuals, yet there’s not much bounce to the story behind this interspecies buddy comedy.
Letting bad-boy Russell Brand supply the voice of the Easter bunny sounds like a promising way to add spice to a warm and fuzzy family flick. Too bad the movie winds up about as bland as carrot-flavored jelly beans.
Its gooey sentiment and hare-brained gags are likely to appeal only to young kids. The filmmakers trip up on their scattered attempts to inject some hipness to Hop for older children and parents (a bit about a rabbit apparently cooked in a pot is handled so tepidly, it barely registers as a halfhearted allusion to the boiled bunny in Fatal Attraction, while a couple of Hugh Hefner-Playboy bunny riffs are just dreary).
Directed by Tim Hill, a veteran at blending live action and digital animation on Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, Hop skips and jumps between the fantasy land beneath Easter Island, where rabbits and chicks manufacture holiday candy — and the human world of Fred O’Hare.
Fred (James Marsden) is a grown-up slacker living with his parents, who hound him to get a job and move out. As a boy, Fred caught a forbidden glimpse of the Easter bunny making his rounds, and his destiny seems tied to the rabbit realm.
He’s not the only disappointment to his parents. Down under Easter Island, young E.B. (voiced by Brand) is about to take over the family business from his dad, the Easter bunny (Hugh Laurie). But E.B. dreams of becoming a rock ’n’ roll drummer and runs away to Hollywood to follow his bunny bliss.
E.B. just happens to come across Fred at a mansion where he’s house-sitting. Inevitably, E.B. unleashes mayhem on Fred, who seems to be the only person surprised that a talking rabbit is running loose in Hollywood (in a couple of weirdly self-referential but unfunny scenes, David Hasselhoff is among those who take a talking bunny in stride).
Written by the Despicable Me team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, along with Brian Lynch, Hop mostly is a lot of slapstick adventures between E.B. and Fred. They gradually form a kinship, find common ground and go through all the other usual things that arise when man befriends rabbit, including taking on scheming chick Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria), who wants to turn Easter into a poultry-run holiday.
The movie hangs on Brand. His slightly spacy Anglo mutterings lend a strange warmth to E.B., whose adorable face could inspire an entire line of cuddly plush toys. The animation is the movie’s strong point, presenting a rainbow-colored world that should satisfy young children’s cinematic sweet tooth.
Cast: James Marsden, Russell Brand, Hank Azaria, Hugh Laurie, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins.
Director: Tim Hill.
Screenwriters: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio.
Producers: Michele Imperato, Christopher Meledandri.
A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 94 minutes. Mild rude humor. Opens Friday April 1 at area theaters.