Hop is a cheap chocolate Easter bunny of a movie; completely hollow, well beyond its sell-by date, and after it's finished you're left feeling a bit ill.
Director Tim Hill is who insulted Roger Rabbit with this slapdash hash of live-action caricatures and digital cartoons. Hill has SpongeBob SquarePants experience, and you sense that TV show's low budget ambition bubbling here. But it never surfaces, dragged down by pandering gags like the bunny hero E.B. pooping jelly beans, and someone eating them.
Bad boy comedian Russell Brand voices E.B., and the restrictions of family entertainment sorely cramp his style. It could be anyone with a British accent behind those CG-eyes. At least Brand didn't have to show his face like James Marsden, who is no Bob Hoskins when it comes to acting opposite a rabbit that isn't there.
Marsden plays Fred O'Hare (get it?), a slacker so lazy that his family stages an unfunny intervention to kick him out. His sister (Kaley Cuoco) still hands over the keys to a Beverly Hills mansion where she's dog sitting. Soon he'll have unwanted company.
E.B. grew up on Easter Island with his velveteen dad, the Easter Bunny (Hugh Laurie). E.B. is expected to take over the family business of delivering candy around the world, but he wants to be a rock and roll drummer — a thumper, if you will. He zips through a rabbit hole to Hollywood, and directly into the path of Fred's car. Feeling guilty, Fred takes E.B. back to the mansion, and the plot curdles.
The Easter Bunny dispatches the special ops Pink Berets team to retrieve his son, while Fred sets up an audition for E.B. with David Hasselhoff for his TV talent show. There's no doubt the Hoff will be impressed since E.B. already showed his stuff with the gospel septet Blind Boys of Alabama.
Hasselhoff? A singing group most kids never heard? All Hop needs is Hugh Hefner to completely disassociate itself from kid sensibilities. Oh, he's here, too.
When Hill takes viewers to Easter Island, it's a nicely Wonka kind of place, run by yellow chicks led by Carlos (Hank Azaria), with his revolutionary agenda. Carlos wants to steal the Egg of Destiny scepter that would make him Easter king. Just one more thing for E.B. to straighten out before Hop mercifully ends.
What really irritates me about Hill's movie is how little effort is made to establish physical contact and interaction between its live actors and cartoons. Twenty-three years after Who Framed Roger Rabbit, that should be fairly easy. Hoskins offered a master class in body language to set the standard. Too much of Hop is simply Marsden mugging at the camera, and empty spaces where E.B. will be filled in later.
Hop is harmless, which is the worst best thing to be said for any movie. It never decides whether to be a kiddie flick or a grownup lark and winds up as neither. As Roger might say: "Puh-puh-puh-puhleeze, don't waste your time."
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.