Theatrical Review: HOP
Writers: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio (screenplay and story), Brian Lynch (story)
Director: Tim Hill
Cast: Russell Brand (voice), James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Hugh Laurie (voice), Hank Azaria (voice)
Studio: Universal Pictures' Illumination Entertainment
Just in time for the Easter holiday comes the kids film starring Russell Brand as a drums-playing Easter-Bunny-to-be who escapes the expectations of his father (the current Easter Bunny) to chase his dreams to Hollywood, where he meets up with a dumb bunny of a different species, a loser equally as preoccupied with Easter and disappointing his dad. Which is to say – just in time for the Easter holidays comes the kids film absolutely no one asked for. The plotline of HOP is surely ludicrous, but such a thin premise doesn’t automatically entail that the film also be messy, bizarre, flat, and just plain boring.
The film imagines the title of Easter Bunny to be given due to lineage, a sort of monarchy of candy-givers, though it’s never quite clear what role the “Egg of Destiny” plays when it comes to picking the next Bunny (does it pick the Easter Bunny? Or impart powers on whomsoever should pick it up? What’s up with the moon?), but that’s neither here nor there in the giant candy-colored mess that is HOP. Young E.B. (as voiced by Brand) has no interest in taking up his father’s work after his retirement – the bunny wants to be a drummer, he doesn’t want to spend his days in the Easter Factory with a bunch of rigidly work-driven chicks crafting candy for the world. He wants to go to Hollywood! Of course he does! Which doesn’t explain why upon landing in Los Angeles (via a clever rabbit hole, one of the film’s few fun touches) he meets the hapless Fred (James Marsden), who may the one person in the world best equipped to kick it with a walking, talking Easter bunny.
Fred is a loser any way you slice the marshmallow Peep. Recently kicked out of his parents’ house for being a jobless, penniless, shiftless idiot, Fred has been entrusted with house-sitting for his sister’s boss (just one of the film’s many strangely complicated plot conceits). But though Fred is a serious underachiever, he also has a personal attachment to the Easter Bunny – he saw E.B.’s dad at work as a child, and he’s been convinced of the Easter Bunny’s existence ever since. Which does not explain why he spends his first hours with E.B. utterly in denial of what the rabbit can do – again, neither here not there, sensical plotlines be damned! E.B. and Fred embark on a journey (sort of) of self-discovery and acceptance (kind of) that somehow involves the meaning of friendship, jelly bean defecation, David Hasselhoff, Gary Cole being a real jerk, a chick-led coup d’etat back at old Easter Island, and a bunch of shoe-horned-in pop songs. It is all very boring and very strange.
James Marsden does his best with what he’s given to work with – he’s both game and charming, making Fred one of those “lovable losers” that’s actually genuinely sweet. Though Fred’s big, life-changing, climactic moment is so poorly crafted that it’s probably the funniest part of the entire film, Marsden still makes its outcome enjoyable and engaging to watch. Brand’s particular type of very adult humor is completely lost in the film’s attempt to appeal to kids, though HOP is not nearly goofy or wacky enough to really compel viewers of any age. Whether or not you are a fan of Brand’s style, it’s obvious to the audience that E.B. could have been voiced by anyone, the assumed cache of Brand’s name amounting to little when it comes to the giggles.
HOP also makes the mistake of staying too long in Fred’s world – the “real world” is gray and common in comparison to the all-too-brief glimpses at the Easter Factory we are occasionally afforded. Though the film succeeds in giving the Easter Bunny myth a new spin, complete with a clever and bright home base, we never live long enough in that world for HOP to sustain that imagination, that brightness, that candy-coated fun. Had HOP been set in the factory, with more appearances from the chick workers, the gurl-power-driven Pink Beret royal guard, and the fantastic Willy Wonka-esque candy creations, the film could likely have been much more sweet to the eye and heart. As is, HOP is almost instantly forgettable – not fun enough to charm kids, not smart enough to endear it to adults – not a glittering Easter basket packed with treats, but a stale Tootsie Roll found at the bottom of a purse, old and boring, uninspiring and unsatisfying.
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