Andy Bockelman: ‘Hop’ is one sweet sugar rush

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

'Hop'

2.5 out of 4 stars

95 minutes

Starring: James Marsden and the voices of Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie and Hank Azaria.

Now playing at West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Carmike Chief Plaza 4.

The market for movies about musically talented rodents has been dominated by “Alvin and the Chipmunks” in recent years, but before the singing trio gets too comfortable at the top, they might want to let the main character of “Hop” have his say.

For millennia, the Easter Bunny has overseen the biggest holiday of spring. The tradition of distributing colored eggs and other goodies to children around the world has been handed down from father to son for years — until now.

The current Easter Bunny (voice of Hugh Laurie) is anxiously awaiting the chance to pass the torch to his boy, E.B. (Russell Brand), but the younger rabbit has his own dream, one of stardom as a famous drummer. When the young cottontail hightails it, his first stop is Hollywood, though he nearly becomes roadkill, courtesy of Fred O’Hare (James Marsden), a chronically unemployed loser.

Fred’s decision to take in the “injured” animal only amounts to trouble, but when he founds out he’s harboring the most famous bunny around, he changes his tune, agreeing to help E.B. realize his goal of musical prosperity. But, back home, without a new rabbit to take the reins, a chick named Carlos (Hank Azaria) is following through on his own dream to take over the holiday.

Clean-cut Marsden looks a little too overenthusiastic to be playing someone with such a relaxed attitude about work, having to be pushed out of the family nest by his parents (Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins) and sisters (Kaley Cuoco, Tiffany Espensen). Fred feels more like the type who should be portrayed by someone out of a Kevin Smith movie, although since this is a kids film, maybe it is best to go with the more bright, exuberant star.

Brand, who also pops up as a stage technician, is more in his element as E.B., a well-meaning young bunny with some serious skill on the skins and an urge to escape the pressures of having to deliver on all his Easter responsibilities. Laurie is no slouch either, giving the Easter Bunny just the right amount of grand dignity and fatherly warmth, an image helped along by his Willy Wonka dress style, compared to E.B.’s Kurt Cobain look.

Azaria steals the show with a campy Ricardo Montalban accent as Carlos, the Easter Bunny’s right-hand chick in the workshop, finally following through on his machinations to replace the chocolates and other candies of Easter with delicacies such as birdseed, crickets and worms.

Yummy.

Trying to prevent the Egg of Destiny from falling into the wrong hands — or wings, rather — are the Pink Berets (Janet Healy) an elite squad of long-ears who are as lethal as they are cute.

But, don’t call them adorable unless you want a blow dart to the face.

As the director of the first “Chipmunks” movie, Tim Hill must have a fascination with small, cuddly creatures that get under the skin of their human counterparts, though the ones here are the product of much more impressive CGI animation from Illumination Entertainment.

The studio’s second feature isn’t as fresh as its prominent debut, “Despicable Me,” but that has to do more with the live action than the animation.

There’s no real logic to E.B.’s presence in the real world, with Fred seemingly the only person who realizes that there’s a talking rabbit walking around. And, unlike the imaginary pooka of “Harvey,” this bunny is actually visible to everyone, including David Hasselhoff, who’s quick to offer E.B. a chance at the big time.

Puns like Fred’s name of O’Hare and the headquarters on Easter Island — hyuck, hyuck, hyuck — are typical kiddie fodder, although E.B.’s attempt to shack up at the Playboy Mansion may raise some parental eyebrows.

The secular handling of the Easter holiday is a little troublesome, too, as one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar is reduced to nothing more than a time for children to up their cavity count with countless sweets.

Seriously, how many times do we have to hear the bubblegum pop tune “I Want Candy?”

Still, considering how many terrible Christmas movies there have been, at least there aren’t many flicks with which to compare this holiday feature that answers the question of how chocolate bunnies, marshmallow Peeps and eggs painted like a Michelangelo fresca appear in baskets every Easter Sunday.

As far as the jelly beans, the less you know about their origins the better.

With a story that’s been around since “The Jazz Singer,” “Hop” can hardly be called innovative, but it’s still family-friendly enough to hold us until the similar father/son yuletide tale “Arthur Christmas,” which will hopefully be the last of holiday figureheads having disputes with their children.

And, let’s hope there are no plans for a movie about the Tooth Fairy and her tomboy daughter.

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