I waited until the day before Easter to see “Hop,” thinking to avoid the masses of children for whom this movie is designed. (It’s rated “PG” for “some mild rude humor,” which seems redundant to me, but I’m scarcely a kid anymore.) But there were kids aplenty in the theater and rightly so, for this is a film that plays well to them and includes just enough sly material to keep their parents amused. Director Tim Hill and a legion of technical folks seamlessly blend the animated and the live action—the part with the real human beings and actual movie sets.
The story tells the tail, er, tale of young EB, the heir apparent to the Easter Bunny. But instead of assuming the Santa-like duties due to fall to or upon him, EB wants to become a rock drummer. His dismayed dad (voiced by Hugh Laurie, TV’s “House”) takes him on a tour of a candy factory that would make Willy Wonka drool with envy, but the young bunny (wonderfully voiced by Russell Brand, playing distinctly against type) worries about maintaining the perfect record his ancestors have established worldwide—with the possible exception of China.
Cut to twenty years later, and the date of the still unready EB’s being dubbed by the Egg of Destiny, an event that precipitates a crisis. He escapes from his home on Easter Island (heh, heh) to Hollywood, hoping to realize his dreams. But having been rejected at the Playboy mansion (a known home for stray Bunnies), he winds up with Fred (James Marsden), a twenty-something slacker who is house-sitting a mansion, waiting for his own dream job to magically materialize. EB subtly blackmails Fred into taking him in, then wangles an audition in front of David Hasselhoff. When he impresses “The Hoff” with his talent, the road to fame and self-fulfillment seems clear.
But, of course, that would be too easy. Worse yet, it would leave the world without an Easter Bunny. Back home, an upwardly mobile Easter chick named Carlos has been grooming himself for the job for decades, simmering in resentment against the reluctant heir apparent. Both Carlos and his feckless assistant Phil are voiced by Hank Azaria, and these two characters provide the most sustained laughs for the adults, the screenwriters giving them the best lines. Marsden is OK as likeable Fred, the other humans are passable, but Brand is quite wonderful. Hard as it is to believe that this Bad Boy of filmdom—see “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek”—can play an innocent wittle bunny wabbit, he does.
There are also some references to “Fatal Attraction” and “The Matrix” to please film fans. Oh, and wait until the end credits are done to see perhaps one of the movie’s best moments. The kids will be long gone, and they wouldn’t have gotten it, anyway.