1 1/2 stars (out of 4)
Easter was a holiday that has pretty much managed to stay under Hollywood’s radar — with the exception of the 1948 musical Easter Parade, which had no rabbits — and certainly none that poop jelly beans.
Nor did it have David Hasselhoff, looking like his plastic surgeon practised on Jar Jar Binks, in a ridiculous cameo that provides motivation for a big chunk of the yawner that is Hop.
Hop is the story of wisecracking E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), the reluctant teenaged heir to the Easter Bunny throne. E.B. harbours dreams of rock ‘n’ roll drumming glory while his father (Hugh Laurie), the soon-to-retire Easter Bunny, despairs over his son’s selfish ways. How can E.B. turn his back on centuries of family tradition to make loud, popular music?
Hey, wasn’t that The Jazz Singer?
Actually the live-action-animation hybrid owes more to The Santa Clause and Alvin and the Chipmunks (director Tim Hill was also responsible for the singing-rodent flick).
Too bad it bears no resemblance to Despicable Me, last year’s delightful animation also from Chris Meledandri, whose minions get a teasing reference in the early going before the credits.
E.B. packs his drumsticks and hits Hollywood — with a mildly amusing moment at the gates of Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Mansion — and ends up running into Fred O’Hare (James Marsden). Actually, Fred runs into him and finds himself in the company of a talking bunny.
Fred is a perpetual slacker who still lives at home (Marsden, at age 37, is ridiculously too old for this role), but has landed a gig house- sitting a Hollywood mansion for his sister’s rich boss.
E.B. moves in, trailing G-rated frat-boy mayhem. Fred learns E.B.’s true identity after the hopper extrudes a pile of multicoloured jelly beans from beneath his fluffy tail.
Meanwhile, back at the candy factory on Easter Island, the head Bunny frets about his missing son. Who will replace him in the egg-shaped sleigh pulled fluffy Easter chicks? Santa should sue for copyright infringement.
Seems there’s mutiny afoot on the factory floor, where production is being ramped up for the holiday. Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria), the chief chick on candy duty (via East L.A.), wants to hop over the reluctant E.B. and be the Easter Bunny himself.
Where Hop succeeds is visually. The use of GCI characters with humans works well. A scene where Fred’s sister Sam (Kaley Cuoco) cuddles E.B. is about as good as these visual tricks get.
So smaller kids will think E.B. is real, older kids will be bored by the story and adults will think David Hasselhoff must really need the money.
Linda Barnard is a syndicated movie critic for The Toronto Star.