Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hop Blu-ray Review

Reviewed  by Sean Ferguson
The Easter Bunny’s heir apparent leaves his ancestral home on Easter Island to pursue pop superstardom in the animated comedy Hop, which arrived on Blu-ray and DVD on March 23, 2012, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Blending state-of-the-art CGI animation with live action, Hop is a non-stop, rockin’ adventure packed with humor and hi-jinks! E.B. was destined to be the Easter Bunny, but all he wanted to do was rock!  When teenager E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) leaves for Hollywood in pursuit of his dream to become a rock star drummer, he meets Fred (James Marsden), an out-of-work slacker with his own lofty goals.  Together the two encounter a series of hilarious mishaps and misadventures and in the end help each other recognize the importance of family.

Film (3 out of 5 stars)

With just about every holiday now the subject of a film, there can’t be too many other holidays left that don’t have a themed movie for its basis. Unless I start working on Columbus Day: New World Drive-by , there can’t be too many more holidays left to cover and movie studios will have to find somewhere else to find their inspiration like board games…oh wait…never mind.  This time the focus is on Easter and the bunnies and chicks that make it happen along with a young man who can’t get his act together and move on with his life.
Over on Easter Island, (where else would the Easter Bunny’s headquarters be?), Mr. Bunny (Hugh Laurie) gives his young son E.B. (Russell Brand) a tour of the Easter factory where all of the Easter candy is made and distributed.  The tour is intended as the first step into the indoctrination of E.B. as the new Easter Bunny as his father wants to retire, but the tour has the opposite effect on E.B. who is overwhelmed by the massive responsibilities.  All E.B. wants to do is to become a drummer, a vocation that his father scoffs at.  Upset at his father’s apparent indifference to his dream job, E.B. runs away and ends up in Van Nuys, California.
As he wanders the streets, E.B. is stuck by a car driven by a fellow responsibility averse young man named Fred O’Hare (get it?) who is played by James Marsden.  Fred was on his way to house-sit a mansion for his sister when he hit E.B, who feigns being injured in order to get Fred to take him in.  The plan works, and soon enough E.B. is messing up what little Fred has going for him.  Fred can’t keep a job and has no interest in really looking for a new one.  He’s gotten so worthless that his family has taken to giving him an intervention of sorts with pre-planned written statements on how his laziness affects the family.  During an interview that his sister set up, Fred blows it thanks to E.B. who sees the Easter Bunny’s royal guard – The Pink Berets searching for him.  All is not lost however, as while ruining Fred’s interview, E.B. learns that David Hasselhoff will be judging a talent show that he can compete in.
Back on Easter Island, the disgruntled chick led by the Easter Bunny’s right hand chick Carlos and his dance crazed henchman Phil (both voiced by Hank Azaria) are planning to seize power for the chicks.  Things aren’t going well for E.B. and Fred since E.B.’s terror of the Pink Berets keeps getting Fred in trouble, especially when they crash Fred’s sister’s play which doesn't please his father (Gary Cole).  The Easter themed play does offer Fred an epiphany though as he decides he wants to become the first human to be the Easter Bunny.  E.B. starts to train him and is surprised to learn that Fred actually has a talent for it.  Convinced that he is free and clear to become a drummer, E.B. fakes his own death with a decoy (a butterball turkey with his shirt on it) and leaves Fred behind to face the wrath of the Pink Berets who take Fred back to Easter Island to face Mr. Bunny for his supposed crime.  Taking advantage of Mr. Bunny’s grief, Carlos and Phil seize control and it will be up to E.B. to save the day.
Hop is a lightweight bit of fun for younger audiences with a few chuckles included for adults.  James Marsden makes for an appealing doofus and he’s very much in Enchanted mode here.  I love listening to Hugh Laurie’s voice so he was a welcome addition to the movie for me.  Gary Cole does his usual great job in a limited role once again.  Why can’t he ever get a big role?  The man is hilarious and deserves a lot better than he’s been getting.  The animation is pretty good and all of the colors and silliness will keep most young children’s attention.  Unlike their previous effort Despicable Me, Hop doesn't make as much effort to appeal to all ages, but it’s cute and my son enjoyed it.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is pretty good but it’s not without some flaws.  There’s some nice detail on display but it’s not consistent, especially when the CG animation is blended with the live action scenes.  When it’s solely the CG animation the detail sharpens quite a bit. Colors fare a lot better in this transfer, as they are varied and vibrant and some scenes such as the Easter Bunny factory pop off the screen.  The live action scenes offer natural looking flesh tones that remain consistent throughout the movie.  The film’s black levels are fairly solid but not the solid inkiness that I would preferred.  There’s some noise present during the live action scenes but it’s not bad enough to be a major distraction.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

Hop’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix does the job with an above average track that falls short of the usual stellar record of recent animated films.  The dialogue is clear and intelligible throughout and is never drowned out by effects or the movie’s score.  The LFE channel delivers the action with a kick and the rear channels also get plenty of activity as well.  The film’s directional effects are decent and generally accurate but could have been a little sharper. The film’s score fares well and it’s nicely balanced with the rest of the mix.

Extras (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The extras included could have been a lot better and more comprehensive, but what’s here is mainly for the kids and they aren’t as discriminating.
  • U-Control Features – There’s  two U-Control features included with the first one being  ”Hop Tweets” in which E.B. tweets occasional messages  and the second one is the “Pink Beret Tracker” which tracks the many locations shown in the film.  Both of these features really aren’t that interesting – even for children.
  • The World of Hop – These six short featurettes represent the only look at the making of the film.  The segments are focused on the characters and locations in the film including:  ”The Candy Factory,” “E.B.,” “Fred,” “The Easter Bunny,” “Carlos and Phil” and “Sam.”  All together the running time for them is under ten minutes so don’t expect an in depth look at the film.
  • Phil’s Dance Party – A short featuring the dance crazed Phil and his fellow chicks.  Kids will like this one.
  • All Access with Cody Simpson – A two minute look at the Cody Simpson’s song which is fairly pointless.
  • Russell Brand: Being the Bunny – A one minute testimonial by Russell Brand on why he was perfect to play the role.
  • Russell Brand’s Kid Crack Ups – Russell Brand talks to kids about he movie. Skip.
  • Carlos on Carlos: The Premiere According to Carlos – We hear from Carlos from Hop’s red carpet premiere.
  • Emotion in Motion: The Dance of Ken Daurio – The man who inspired Phil’s dancing talks about how he does it.
  • Post Coup Commentary: Carlos & Phil Tell All – A three minute talk with Carlos and Phil as they talk about the events of the movie.  Fans of the characters might enjoy this.
  • Games - There’s three games for kids here: “Drum Along,” “Pink Beret Skill Tester” and “E.B.’s Candy Challenge,” which is fun for young children.

Summary (3 out of 5 stars)

This is a cute kids movie that has a game cast that helps it appeal to both children and adults alike.  The movie isn’t very ambitious but its a pleasant enough way to spend time with your kids without the usual pain some of these kid movies engender for adult.  The Blu-ray offers pretty good audio and picture quality but more time should have been spent on the extras.  Bottom line – kids will enjoy this colorful and active movie, especially when the see all the candy in the Easter Bunny factory!
Order your copy today!

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