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Movie Review: Over the Hedge

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 4, 2006

Film still from OVER THE HEDGE animated film featuring a raccoon talking to a squirrel

Environmental concerns keep popping up in the movies this year, a topic that usually inspires rabid discussion from both sides of the aisle. The first film to cause a mini-brouhaha was the kids film Hoot, which I haven’t seen but it’s about a couple of teenagers trying to protect endangered owls from being killed by greedy land developers. The film seemed harmless enough, but some critics took to calling the kids in the movie “terrorists” (you can run a Google search to see who said it).

But the film really inflaming the global warming wars is Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, which I also haven’t seen and so can’t comment on the movie’s POV. But of course global warming activists are thrilled by it, while opponents have been busy viciously condemning it.

Finally, on the milder side comes Over the Hedge, which yes I have actually seen. Although the movie, based on a comic strip, is about a gang of woodland creatures trying to survive in an expanding suburban landscape, any pro-environmental messages in the film are limited to harmless jabs, like this one:

RJ: This is an SUV, which humans use because they are slowly losing their ability to walk.
Lou: It’s enormous. How many humans can fit in there?
RJ: Usually … one.

Human activity is generally presented as a boon to the animals, that while suburban sprawl is destroying their forest home, the junk food that people consume and discard in copious amounts is a glorious trade-off. I was kind of hoping that living off of a diet of human garbage would eventually prove detrimental to the animals’ lives, but that it didn’t wasn’t so much of a let-down that I couldn’t enjoy the film for what it was, which is fairly mindless entertainment.

However, where the film takes maybe a more controversial stance is in its promotion of the definition of the term “family.” The film does include a “traditional” family, a mother-father-kids team of porcupines, but that one specific group is never called a “family” in the entire movie. Instead, the “family” that is continually refered to is the larger inter-species gathering that includes the porcupines, plus a single father-daughter team of possums, a turtle, a squirrel, a skunk and the raccoon they quickly accept into the fold. The film is thus a wonderful advertisement for the power of multi-culturalism and that, yes, it does take a village to raise a family.

And perhaps the most controversial piece of the film involves inter-species mating. (I won’t say which species hooks up with which so as not to spoil the film.) In most animated animal pairings, species stay within their own species, e.g. Mickey goes with Minnie, Donald goes with Daisy; and while Pepe LePew romanced cats he only did so because he thought they were skunks. But in Over the Hedge, speciesism is trumped by other biological compatibility traits.