PG, for crude humor. It really rests in that space where parents cringe a little bit, but kids go absolutely nuts. Really, you could pair Hop with stuff like Captain Underpants. There's a good deal of poop jokes. An odd situation where it plays up blindness as a conceit. E.B. himself is pretty rude throughout the movie. The bad guy gets pretty threatening. Nothing that would be considered overtly offensive, but it does kind of come down to taste for Hop.
DIRECTOR: Tim Hill
Do you know how hard a shift it is to go from writing about 28 Days Later into pivoting to Hop? My wife even called it. The movie was over and she said something along the idea of "Ha! You have to write about Hop." At the time, I thought it was going to be my pleasure. I had a germ of an idea of how to approach it and I've written about far worse movies than Hop. But then, the sun decided not to come out today and the wife and I are having political differences. I'm a very sensitive little boy and I don't want to be writing right now. But when you see that I wrote way too much about a CG crass bunny / buddy comedy with James Marsden, you'll know that this is all an exercise in willpower and of maintaining a routine.
I didn't hate Hop. I missed a few parts. One of the interesting consequences of doing a family movie night every night during quarantine is that the kids love having the routine, but also make it way harder to watch the movie closely. There are some moments that I'm a little lost on. I don't quite get the characterization of David Hasselhoff. It could be that, like his many other cameos in things, the entire joke is that David Hasselhoff is there. I also don't know if E.B. really makes the switch he needs to for the story to actually have a moral...you know, for kids? But I caught it close enough to get more than foundational elements of the movie. If I'm way off, call me one it. I'm not going to host a private screening after the kids go to bed to really confirm a lot of my discussion points, so keep that in mind. If I'm way off, you're probably right because I missed, mentally, 5-10 minutes while begging the kids to shut up and watch the movie.
I think I've learned that James Marsden was born to interact with CG cartoon characters. For most of his career, I've thought of Marsden as Cyclops in the X-Men movies or as the guy who keeps dying in Westworld. But Marsden actually has a very specific talent that I didn't think that people necessarily wanted. It seems like movies that cast actors across from animated characters, especially computer generated animated characters, are making a throwaway movie. If you are using Hop as the only bit of evidence for this argument, you might have a point. There are some really unpolished elements of Hop that allow you to fight for any opinion about this movie. Again, I thought it was fine, but that's because I had really low investment for the movie. But Marsden crushed it across from Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog.
The thing about comedy is that it is something that works really well when you play off of someone. It's about that give or take. I don't mind what a lot of comedians have done with quarantine videos. But there's something a little off about even the best of the quarantine transitions. There still is some quality, but it doesn't feel the same. Marsden might be one of those people who has an understanding of what it means to act across from a tennis ball and still make it seem believable. I don't know if Russell Brand was on set or anything, but Marsden makes his interaction with E.B., the tennis ball morphed into a computer generated bunny, pretty believable. It's got to be a talent and a lot that translates to the film. So far, this is all evaluative versus analytical, but it also is probably my greatest takeaway. I really feel like Hop might have been James Marsden's audition tape for Sonic the Hedgehog because the movies are just so darned similar.
Should I get into it? I guess. I mean, I fill this section with nonsense anyway, so let's be explicit. James Marsden confronts a CG animal with attitude. He's been displaced from his home and has to get to a location to restore the status quo. They initially don't get along, but thanks to the faith of James Marsden, the two become a dynamic duo, looking out for one another as the villain gets closer and closer to destroying the pair. It's the same movie. But that's not really where I want to go. That's more of a commentary that kids' movies tend to be really formulaic. The movie that I want to comment on was Noelle. Now there's a movie that really owes a lot to Hop. I know that other movies have talked about the concept of replacing a mythical successor. With Noelle, I talked a lot about The Santa Clause because everything is ultimately a knock off of something else. But Hop gets points in my head. Noelle had the idea that someone who wasn't built to be something got to be something. Hop might get a little icky because a white man earns more privilege through his actions in this movie. I want to talk about that forever now that I just thought of it, but I do love the fact that this is about Easter.
Easter is fundamentally a religious holiday. Christmas always has the argument whether it is a holiday for everyone or fundamentally a religious holiday. That gets pretty complex. But treating Easter like it is Christmas brings up a some funny concepts. There is this seriousness to this comic film that is infused in a way that I haven't seen done with Easter before. Listen, I have no problem telling my kids that the Easter bunny is fake. Not many people are really fighting that battle because it is really silly. But I'm thinking of the final act of Hop. It takes a lot to like E.B. He's a character who, despite being the protagonist, keeps breaking the rules in ways that he knows he's doing so. With a character like Paddington, the protagonist breaks the rules by accident a lot. He causes all this trouble trying to do the right thing. E.B. keeps making selfish choices. I'm going to be writing about The Emperor's New Groove soon, which also connects to the many many examples of these kinds of characters, but The Emperor's New Groove doesn't mince words. I think the filmmakers want us to cheer for EB. So when he represents Easter, the thing we're fighting both for and against is that Easter will be ruined by a character we don't really bond with.
That's where James Marsden comes in. He's kind of a waste of space too, but his crimes are far more passive than E.B.'s. He's the character we can actually bond with. With these stories, where there's a CG character bonded to a protagonist, I always assume that the protagonist is going to be the cartoon. But I might be wrong. In those cases, the characters stay pretty static. It's the human who becomes far more dynamic.
But this leads me to the role of privilege. I don't think I've ever seen a movie that promoted first world white people problems harder than this movie. This is an adult who lives at home with his parents who rejects every job that comes his way because he's too good for them. He lives very comfortably. Even when he housesits, it is for the most unbelievably expensive house I've ever seen. The character considers himself special, made for greatness. But there's nothing really all that special about him. I get that he's made for something better. It's almost built into the American Dream, the idea that we can become anything that we want to be. But there's probably a mistake there that could have been avoided. Lots of stories, from Death of a Salesman to Office Space dance around the idea of wasted greatness. When Fred rejects jobs, it's kind a of a problem that a bunch of people can't relate to. But look at Office Space. The protagonist works and is miserable. Yeah, he's kind of a jerk. But, ultimately, he's not doing anything wrong. It's a noble quest to fight for greatness. Lots of stories play with that concept. But being lazy and demanding to be taken care of makes the character kind of unlikable. With Sonic the Hedgehog at least, James Marsden plays a cop who wants more. That's proactive. The 2011 slacker is really a terrible character to be reinforcing for the greater good. His father should actually be mad. And now I realize that the father is Gary Cole...who was Lumbergh in Office Space.
Hop's biggest problem is that it is TOO generic. It doesn't have anything all that special about it. That's not the worst thing in the world. It was an entertaining watch. But in terms of being a holiday great, there's not much to really sell here.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.