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Hop: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Mini-Movie Review

Hop (2011) movie poster Hop

Theatrical Release: April 1, 2011 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: PG / Songs List

Director: Tim Hill / Writers: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio (story & screenplay); Brian Lynch (screenplay)

Cast: James Marsden (Fred O'Hare), Russell Brand (voice of E.B., Production Assistant), Kaley Cuoco (Sam O'Hare), Hank Azaria (voice of Carlos, voice of Phil), Gary Cole (Henry O'Hare), Elizabeth Perkins (Bonnie O'Hare), Hugh Laurie (voice of E.B.'s Dad), Tiffany Espensen (Alex O'Hare), David Hasselhoff (David Hasselhoff), Chelsea Handler (Mrs. Beck), Dustin Ybarra (Cody), Carlease Burke (Receptionist), Veronica Alicino (Waitress), Django Marsh (voice of Young E.B.), Blind Boys of Alabama (Themselves), Coleton Ray (Young Fred), Hugh Hefner (Voice at Playboy Mansion)

Buy Hop from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Mini-Movie DVD Limited Time Combo Pack Instant Video

There are hundreds of Christmas movies and many of them involve Santa Claus and his magical occupation. In contrast, there are just a handful of films that center on Easter and most of them deal with Jesus' final days of mortality. Perhaps that is reflective of how the West observes Christianity's two holiest holidays.
However, after decades of being limited to television specials and cameos in Tim Allen's Santa Clause sequels, the Easter Bunny has finally had a chance to have his story told in a theatrical feature film. For that, you can thank the folks at Illumination Entertainment, the Universal Studios subsidiary who followed up their 2010 blockbuster Despicable Me with last spring's live-action/CGI hybrid comedy Hop.

Hop owes a great deal to Fox's hit Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise, whose mixed-medium design is the unmistakable blueprint for the original movie's director Tim Hill. The film takes us to Easter Island, where the British-accented Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie) lives. His son E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) is expected to inherit the family business, but he would much rather play the drums than deliver Easter baskets once a year to all the world's believers.

In "Hop", ne'er-do-well Fred O'Hare (James Marsden) and Easter Bunny's son E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) become housemates in a Beverly Hills mansion.

That generational disconnect is paralleled in Los Angeles, where Fred O'Hare (Jason Marsden) is clearly a disappointment to his father (Gary Cole), having never been able to hold a steady job. Fred's younger, more mature sister Sam ("The Big Bang Theory"'s Kaley Cuoco) helps her slacker sibling find his footing, motivating him to take seriously an interview for an entry level job at a video game company and letting him housesit for her vacationing boss. Driving up to the expansive Beverly Hills mansion, Fred hits E.B., who has left home for Hollywood, with his car.

Playing up his injuries and emphasizing his consciousness, E.B. guilts Fred into letting him stay with him in the boss' big home. You can easily guess how that turns out. Fred sets E.B. up with a water bowl and newspapers in the garage. But the bunny soon hops inside the residence and makes a mess of the off-limits upstairs with carrots, video games, and the such.

The not-so-injured guest delays and distracts Fred from getting that job and meeting his father's expectations. Meanwhile, E.B.'s father has sent out the Pink Berets, a team of three cute but highly trained girl bunnies to retrieve E.B. While that is occurring, head chick Carlos (Hank Azaria, his first of two Latin-sounding CG bird villains of 2011) is plotting to become the Easter Bunny's successor, instead of the irresponsible heir.

Back on Easter Island, Carlos the chick hopes bunny ears might get The Easter Bunny to consider him as a successor. After years of disappointment, Fred's family (Kaley Cuoco, Tiffany Espensen, Elizabeth Perkins, and Gary Cole) come to be proud of him.

Hop is utterly formulaic. It feels like a refashioned rejected script for an Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel, in which the part of Alvin has been rewritten as the Easter Bunny's son. In dimensions, fur color, and reasonably contemporary musical tastes, E.B. is not far from the singing rodents. The similarities extend all the way down to specific gags.

In some ways, Hop may seem more tolerable than Alvin, since it's not messing about with specific childhood memories and beloved characters. Sure, it's the Easter Bunny, but that mythology has never been as sacred and well-defined as Santa Claus lore.
While many kids may take a photograph with the Easter Bunny at the mall, the thought doesn't go much further than that and the presents aren't often much-anticipated, long-treasured diversions but chocolates and other sweets unlikely to last more than about a week. Even the youngest and most impressionable Hop viewers will probably manage to distinguish this film from whatever reality they've constructed for the Easter icon.

Anyone bothered by the squeaky voices of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore will have no such concerns here; Brand uses his natural accent. As for dubious pop cover choices, he also mostly refrains from singing, the one exception being a grade school show-stopping performance of "I Want Candy."

Brand is sufficiently charismatic in PG-rated voiceover form (he also pops up in a brief live-action cameo). Marsden displays rare comfort in placeholder family film acting, as he demonstrated in Enchanted. Their scenes together provide the best moments of Hop. But even the best moments aren't especially good.

The story by Despicable Me's Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio is a very bland, cookie cutter affair. The screenplay, which credits Puss in Boots' Brian Lynch alongside them, is short on wit and charm, feeling like it was crafted by committee with nary a scene or joke receiving real deliberation. It's a well-known secret that one of the reasons why Pixar has managed to wow just about everyone with just about every one of their movies is because their movies take so long to make. The years of storyboarding and animating present, along with the studio's devout belief in fine-tuning, many opportunities to punch up sequences and ensure they are tightly and creatively bound.

The makers of Hop invested a lot less time and money than an ordinary Pixar production and it shows. The moderately-priced animation by Rhythm and Hues Studios (the same outfit behind the Chipmunks and Garfield movies) is fine but far from breathtaking, especially in scenes mixing CG elements with live-action ones. The characters leave no impression on you. And as I reflect on the film, just a couple of hours after my viewing of it concluded, I struggle to remember more than two bits that showed some imagination: the prominent use of a preoccupied David Hasselhoff as a one-man talent show judge and the revelation that Easter Bunnies can poop jelly beans.

Three silent but skilled Pink Berets conduct a search for E.B. David Hasselhoff plays himself, the host of a reality TV series called "Hoff Knows Talent."

The comedy and storytelling is all very compartmentalized: here are some girl bunnies for girls; here is a Poison song, Hugh Hefner vocal cameo, or "Knight Rider" reference for adults; here are some shenanigans for the young. It's a recipe that is easy for filmmakers to follow and easy for viewers to digest. For years, DreamWorks Animation did nothing but adhere to this formula, with mostly agreeable and always profitable results. That business model seems to be driving Universal and Illumination, judging from Despicable Me and this. Of the two, you expect less from Hop and get less. Less of everything, from big flatlined jokes and action set pieces to bold personalities and emotional manipulation.

There was still enough to Hop to make it a hit, although one whose box office impact was a far cry from the all-animated Illumination works that preceded and followed; the latest, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, is well on its way to crossing the $200 million mark domestically. Hop narrowly passed the $100 M mark in North America and didn't even do that much business in the rest of the world. But for a film reporting a production budget of $63 M, Universal could not have been disappointed with the numbers.

With so few Easter family films to look to, Universal took a page from the Christmas movie handbook by withholding the home video release of Hop almost an entire year from its theatrical debut. That renders timely yesterday's DVD and Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Mini-Movie editions, arriving two weeks before Good Friday.

Hop: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (French, Spanish);
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish); Both: Dolby Surround (English DVS)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
Not Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 23, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $39.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD ($29.98 SRP), Limited Time Combo Pack ($34.98 SRP), and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Hop expectedly looks excellent in the Blu-ray's 1.85:1 widescreen presentation. The clean, vibrant picture is just about perfect, save for the faintest appearance of grain and a washed-out look in certain outdoor scenes. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is plenty robust and directional, but a little erratic in the volume department.

Carlos and Phil dance in the prominently billed but extremely slight mini-movie "Phil's Dance Party." Hugh Laurie records his lines as The Easter Bunny in the character's "The World of 'Hop'" short.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Typical for a Universal Blu-ray, Hop looks overwhelmingly loaded with special features, but actually has a manageable supply of video extras, all of them brief and presented in HD.

"Phil's Dance Party" (3:14) is a little short featuring the Easter Island chicks.
Carlos hijacks the smaller bird's incredibly simple shindig, which even made over amounts to nothing more than brief excerpts of varied music. This is surprisingly threadbare for something prominently billed (even on the case's spine) as a "mini-movie."

Six shorts fall under the heading The World of Hop, a section that could use a "Play All" listing. "A Look at the Candy Factory" (1:34) lives up to its title with a brief discussion of the vibrant location's design. "A Look at E.B." (2:02) considers the furry protagonist with cast and crew comments and a touch of Russell Brand voice recording sessions. "A Look at Fred" (1:19) turns to James Marsden's character with live-action B-roll and enthusiastic praise. "A Look at the Easter Bunny" (1:10) serves up Hugh Laurie sound booth bits and acclaim. "A Look at Carlos and Phil" (1:45) discusses Hank Azaria's two chicks with thoughts from the actor and others. "A Look at Sam" (1:17) shows us how much fun Kaley Cuoco had on the set.

Cody Simpson samples the sweets at a "Hop" promotional event. Russell Brand stretches his long legs during his colorful interviews with kids.

"All Access with Cody Simpson" (2:28) tags along with the young Australian boy who covers "I Want Candy" in the end credits, as he signs autographs and eats candy at a Hop promotional event.

"Russell Brand: Being the Easter Bunny" (1:07) is an animated short which dramatizes the actor's sarcastic remarks about getting into character. "Russell Brand's Kid Crack-Ups" (2:57) finds the actors quizzing and goofing around with children. He's a regular old Art Linkletter.

Kaley Cuoco receives a vain caption in Carlos' short on the "Hop" premiere. Dance is serious stuff (not really) to headbanded writer/choreographer Ken Daurio.

"Carlos on Carlos: The Premiere According to Carlos" (3:30) has "Carlos the chick" interview his fellow cast members and producer Chris Meledandri on the red carpet of Hop's premiere. It's fun to see the candy and swag-filled event, but the vain unseen interviewer/cameraman/everything else gag quickly wears thin.

"Emotion in Motion: The Dance of Ken Daurio" (2:34) has writer Ken Daurio pose as Phil's choreographer for tongue-in-cheek insight and dance studio "behind the scenes" footage shedding light on his art.

"Post Coup Commentary: Carlos & Phil Tell All" (2:59) reflects on the film from the chicks' point of view, as they assign blame for where things went wrong for them.

The Drum Along memory game is basically a variation on the 1980s handheld toy Simon. E.B.'s Candy Challenge is a brief, simple, and fun virtual board game.

A Games section holds three basic BD-J activities. "Drum Along" has you repeating drum sequences like Simon through four levels of increasing difficulty. It employs patterns to ease the memory challenge. "E.B.'s Candy Challenge" is a virtual board game for 1 or 2 players.
A few of the spaces take you to mini-games (like "spot the differences", "three-egg Monte", and other puzzles), while more either keep you there or move you ahead or back through a vortex. It's more fun with 2 players, though the game did goof at declaring winner. "Pink Beret Challenge" tests your memory, observation, and logic in three different exercises.

The Blu-ray is equipped with Universal's many standard touches, including bookmarks, D-Box Motion Code, pocketBlu (a mobile app), uHear (to clarify unheard lines), a studio logo screensaver, a promotional menu ticker, and BD-Live. All of these welcome features are explained in instructional guides but unlikely to drastic alter your viewing experience. With all these enhancements, the disc is unable to resume playback as DVDs do.

Two other U-Control features are meant to spice up playback. "Hop Tweets" sporadically displays "official" Twitter tweets from E.B., which tend to pertain to what's onscreen and sometimes cleverly. "Pink Beret Tracker" dims the soundtrack to identify music and locations, display storyboards, play character voicemails and short character gags with animated touch phone graphics. While you can't activate both at the same time, they can still be enjoyed in tandem with your remote handy.

If only one film in the history of movie discs had Easter eggs on it, you'd think it'd be this. If there were any, though, I didn't find them.

The DVD's main menu shows off the Easter Island candy factory in all its colorful splendor.

The DVD included here is the same as the one sold on its own. It nicely contains all of the same bonus features as the Blu-ray, minus the U-Control and other format-specific features. That's how all combo packs and studios ought to do it.

Both discs open with promos for "Curious George", Barbie in A Mermaid Tale 2, Bring It On: The Musical, and different home video formats. None of these are menu-accessible and none of Hop's trailers are included.

The menu treats us to the sights of the colorful Easter Island factory. The Blu-ray case is topped by an embossed cardboard slipcover. Inside, an insert provides digital copy download and UltraViolet stream directions, Universal ads, and a coupon for $5 off a ham. Another coupon will net you $5 off a Kodak photo book.

E.B. doesn't want to work, he wants to bang on the drum all day. Fred O'Hare (James Marsden) leaves some room for improvement in his primitive early attempt to paint a bunny on an Easter egg.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

By a process of elimination, Hop may be the most kid-friendly Easter movie out there. But it is, just as it looks, a routine family comedy on the order of The Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks, big on slick commercial value and small on lasting artistic worth.

The Blu-ray's feature presentation is as delightful as it should be, while most of the extras are unusually promotional and shallow. At least DVD households do not get burned by this rarely accommodating combo pack. The timing makes this an awfully tempting sight unseen Easter gift choice, but you would do better with other less thematically relevant recent family movies, like The Muppets, Hugo, and Puss in Boots.

Buy Hop from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Mini-Movie / DVD / Limited Time Combo Pack / Instant Video


Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Directed by Tim Hill: Alvin and the Chipmunks Max Keeble's Big Move | Written by Brian Lynch: Puss in Boots
Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio: Despicable Me Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! The Santa Clause 2 College Road Trip
New: The Muppets The Adventures of Tintin Hugo Jack and Jill Geek Charming (with Shake It Up)
Russell Brand: Bedtime Stories Arthur | James Marsden: Enchanted | Gary Cole: I'll Be Home for Christmas
Live-Action with CGI: The Smurfs G-Force Marmaduke Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Yogi Bear
2011 Family Films: Rio Rango Zookeeper Mr. Popper's Penguins Dolphin Tale
Holiday Movies: Elf The Santa Clause Santa Claus: The Movie Fred Claus It's a Wonderful Life

Easter:
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Mystery of the Easter Chipmunk The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town The First Easter Rabbit
It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown Winnie the Pooh: Springtime for Roo Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies The Miracle Maker

Hop Songs List: "Boogie Shoes", Good Charlotte - "The Anthem", Poison - "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", "Disco Inferno", Nikki and Rich - "Mr. Big Stuff", Hole - "Celebrity Skin", Blind Boys of Alabama - "Higher Ground", The Coasters - "Hongry", Cee Money & Dee Fresh - "Them Girlz", "Peg O' My Heart", Taio Cruz - "Dynamite", "Peter Cottontail", Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - "We No Speak Americano", RAE - "305", Cody Simpson - "I Want Candy"

Buy Hop: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD from Amazon.com (score by Christopher Lennertz)

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Reviewed March 24, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Illumination Entertainment, and 2012 Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Bonus feature and menu caps from the DVD.
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