Review: ‘Hop’

1. As much as "Hop" wants it to be, in desperate, synergistic, buy-the-DVD fashion, Easter is never going to be Christmas. In my house growing up, the tale of Easter Bunny's morning of egg hiding and Peep foisting existed in mock reality for two years, maybe three. Putting aside religious consideration, Easter is just never gonna be iconic the way Christmas is, and pretending like it is -- as "Hop" does -- is a sad attempt to move merchandise. We can't even agree on what the Easter Bunny is supposed to look like. (I prefer this incarnation.) "Hop" sets up a story about a magical lineage of bunnies that have a Santa-like sleigh, driven by chicks rather than deer, in a candy-making factory in Easter Island rather than the North Pole. I've met Santa Claus, and you, sir, are no Santa Claus.

2. Now that I'm thinking about it, "Hop" pretty much has the same plot as "The Santa Clause," which is probably why it exists in the first place. Young E.B. (the name is one of the movie's few jokes that nod at adults; Initials Humor is as "adult" as the humor in this movie gets) is a rockin' drummer rabbit (he's listed as 26 years, which in real life, would make him a very dead rabbit) who is an heir to the Easter Bunny position. But like Poochie the Rappin' Dog before him, E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand, in full-on screech mode) would much rather rock, be radical, that sort of thing. So when his father commands him to take the job, he runs away, or jumps, scampers, avoids rabid dogs, whatever the verb is that isn't the actual title of the film.

3. Because Los Angeles is the soul of rock-and-roll, E.B. goes there, and he is immediately hit by a car driven by an aimless youth named (ho ho!) Fred O'Hare. O'Hare is played by James Marsden, an affable, game actor who looks like, halfway through this project, he realized that this last career move just ruined any hope he had at playing Jason Bourne. (Marsden's also way too old to play an unemployed loser with daddy issues still living at home; I mean, the guy's almost 40.) O'Hare recollects seeing the Easter Bunny as a kid and decides, after the obligatory "a talking rabbit has just found his way into my life" wacky montages, that he wants to be the Easter Bunny himself. You know, just stop asking questions.

4. While dutifully tapping away this plot description, I remembered the three good jokes in the movie. I will now list them for you. 1: The first place E.B. goes when he arrives in Los Angeles is the Playboy mansion. When he buzzes the gate, Hugh Hefner himself answers. Moms are gonna love that. 2. E.B. poops jellybeans. I'm a sucker for humor that combines excrement and confectionaries. 3. When Fred hits E.B. with his car, he believes him to be greviously wounded, so he attempts to put him out of his misery by smashing his brain with a rock. That wasn't a joke, really, but it made me laugh, because I kept imagining the widespread horror if, a half-hour into a kids' movie about Easter, the animated main character was brained with a boulder. You'd have to think someone at the studio would get fired for letting that one through.

5. "Hop" is a particularly dispiriting kids' film, with no attempts at wit or inventiveness, halfhearted animation and a soundtrack that could double as "NOW That's What I Call A Tucker Telephone!" Brand pulls the neat trick of actually sounding bored. (He shows up in a cameo in the film, for that little-kids-who-love-Easter and columns about dangling sex toys out of windows at soccer matches.) Even Chelsea Handler pops up, playing a peculilarly straight role as a toy executive. But the most depressing aspect of "Hop" is the goal of E.B.'s rock-star quest. He doesn't play at the Whiskey, he doesn't snort fire ants with Motley Crue, he doesn't work as a house band for Elton John. No, he becomes a rock star by impressing David Hasselhoff. Hasselhoff's extended cameo is not an in-joke on The Hoff's sad career. No, in the world of "Hop," David Hasselhoff is the gatekeeper to Hollywood stardom, the one man who understands what real talent is. People who would entertain such a notion are the type of people who would make "Hop." Seriously: Forgive me, but they should have just brained the bunny. Would have gotten people talking.

Grade: D+