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Hop

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Image from 'Hop'
Released on Friday, Apr 1 2011

Director: Tim Hill
Screenwriters: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch
Starring: Russell Brand, James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Chelsea Handler
Running time: 94 mins
Certificate: U

With Alvin And The Chipmunks director Tim Hill at the helm, hopes weren't exactly sky-high for Hop. Nevertheless, with Russell Brand providing the voice of E.B. (the Easter Bunny, natch) and the dependable James Marsden as his human foil there were flickers of hope for this live-action/animation hybrid. Unfortunately, it's an uninspired 90 minutes that fails to hold interest for its duration. Out the window fly storytelling finesse and memorable characters, instead we mainly get a succession of gimmicky singing/dancing animals scenes (Crazy Frog, Compare Meerkat eat your hearts out!) strung together by a painfully flimsy script.

Hop revolves around dual plot threads about fathers and sons and untapped potential. In the one corner is James Marsden's Fred O'Hare, a man who's been out of work for a year and back living with his parents. He's the perennial underachiever and, in the eyes of mum (Elizabeth Perkins) and dad (Gary Cole), eclipsed by siblings Samantha (Kaley Cuoco) and Alex (Tiffany Espensen). In rainbow-coloured CGI rabbit land, E.B. has dreams of becoming a world famous rock drummer, something that puts him in direct conflict with his father (Hugh Laurie), who wants him to take over the Easter Bunny mantle. Finding a tunnel that leads straight to Hollywood, E.B. begins his quest for stardom and eventually crosses paths with Fred and the film shifts into familiar "buddy movie" territory. They bicker, they argue, then eventually they come to recognise similarities in their respective plights. You've heard this all before, correct?

There's nothing particularly inventive about Hop - it goes through the motions provoking a few chuckles, yet wastes Brand's flamboyant way with words by keeping him nailed down to the script. You can almost feel him straining to break out of the recording booth and cut loose a bit. With a U certification and the promise of "candy, chicks and rock 'n' roll" on the marketing materials, this was never going to have any kind of edge or risqué humour. James Marsden doesn't fare too well, either. His pin-up looks make him an unlikely choice for the jobless loser (did Jack Black and Jonah Hill turn this down?), and he's mainly reduced to mugging his way through the part like a gurning cardboard cut-out. There's a fun training montage sequence when Fred gets himself in shape to become the first human Easter Bunny and an amusing David Hasselhoff cameo, but that aside it's a pretty dull ride.

Kids' movies may arrive with lower expectations, but there really is no excuse to make something this half-baked when Pixar consistently cranks out great movies and the likes of Rango offer quirky spins on established genres. Avoid this one, it's cinematic myxomatosis.

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