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By Michael Ferraro | May 21, 2006

What do you do if you’re a little raccoon and you owe a bear a wagon full of food and a suburban neighborhood devastated most of your forest home? Simple – you gather up a group of various animals and plan the ultimate Mission: Impossible-style housing infiltration/food heist achievable. That’s the situation little RJ (Bruce Willis) the raccoon finds himself in.

Waking up from hibernation in a forest nearby, Verne (Garry Shandling), a turtle, and his gang of assorted animal friends discover that the large forest they were once apart of is now only a quarter of the size, thanks to the development of a suburban wasteland. When RJ comes into their world, he introduces them to this new world that surrounds them; a world he promises to have a never-ending amount of food. But with this new environment, comes a nasty human who is appalled at the site of any kind of wildlife and also happens to be the president of the Home Owner’s Association. She enlists the help of Dwayne (Thomas Haden Church), a bumbling exterminator, who may have enough tricks to be ahead of the animals ever step of the way.

For DreamWorks Animation, Over the Hedge is a great improvement over some of their previous efforts (like Shark Tale or Shrek 2) and one that isn’t as easily dismissible. Aside from having some great animation, the writing is funny and clever and doesn’t rely on referencing an infinite amount of pop-culture trends. It’s definitely a win-win situation for parents – their kids will love this film for its cute animal characters (even though one of them is a skunk), maybe even learn a thing or two about the value of friendship and family, and the adults will appreciate the comedic situations equally.

Those still fighting for our environment may be interested to see how America’s sudden developmental craze is affecting our animal friends. It seems that every where you turn in America, there is another housing development being built or a giant condo building sprouting up between the trees. It’s amazing that people want to live in places like this – without any privacy (as each house is literally next to each other) and a house that looks just like your neighbor’s and the guy across the street. This isn’t a theme the film strives to focus on but it is there in subtext so it doesn’t punch you in the face. While the issue is important, Over the Hedge has much more to say about other things, those anti-environmentalists shouldn’t have a problem with it either.

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