Moviegoers eagerly awaiting Mel Gibson’s long-rumored HANUKKAH movie can now whet their appetites with HOP – the epic story of the rise and fall of the noble Easter Bunny. Filmed in glorious CinemaScope, this 4-hour Cecil B. DeMille-style motion picture features a CGI Charlton Heston as the Easter Bunny and an army of 300 brave Peeps armed with colorful hard-boiled eggs, morning stars, and…oops, wrong Easter movie! There are so many Easter movies, I sometimes get confused!
Actually, mainstream Hollywood Easter movies have barely existed before director Tim Hill’s HOP. The few existing Easter-related films are direct-to-video cartoon holiday specials and Fred Astaire’s Easter Parade (filmed 50 years ago). What a genius move by Universal Studios, Hershey’s, and Tim Hill to join forces and create a memorable children’s film about the Easter holiday! As annoying as they may be to the old folks, holiday movies are magical to children and are good business for movie studios. If you ask people to list their favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol or Christmas Vacation may be mentioned. These are movies that are watched every year during the holidays. I wouldn’t put A Christmas Story in my “Top 100 Favorite Movies” list, but I’ve probably seen this Canadian classic once a year since I was a kid, I enjoy watching the film every time it plays on television even with commercials and all, and I’ve probably seen it more times than some of my favorite movies. If you ask younger generations what their favorite Easter movie will be, I bet many will someday say HOP. It’s not like they have any other Easter movie choices, yet that association of being “the Easter movie” is a smart move by Universal.
HOP is a very good children’s film – I was entertained, kids definitely loved the film during Easter of 2011, and my 6-year-old really liked it! HOP has a cute and funny story that centers on the Easter Bunny’s lazy teenage son, E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), who must take over the duties of his aging father. E.B. does not want to work in his father’s Wonka-esque candy factory which is mainly run by thousands of chicks and rabbits led by the Easter Bunny’s right-hand man/foreman/chick-in-charge Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria). With no interest in working in the factory or accepting the responsibility of delivering baskets of chocolate bunnies, candy, and eggs to children on Easter Eve, he runs away from his Easter Island (Rapa Nui) home to seek out his dream of becoming a drummer in Hollywood. In California, E.B. accidentally meets unemployed slacker Fred (James Marsden) who has more in common with this talking rabbit then he thinks. As both become friends and try to get their lives back on track, trouble brews back in the Easter Island candy factory as Carlos the chick wants to become the next Easter Bunny!
For a 60-million dollar movie to gross over 180 million dollars worldwide, HOP is a movie that kids really enjoyed. There’s no reason for HOP to make more money than it did because these holiday films are quick fixes and only sell tickets/home videos during that particular holiday season. I feel bad for people who really love a holiday movie they just saw in the theaters, but they would have to wait a whole year before they can own that movie on Blu-ray/DVD because holiday movies are usually released on video during that same holiday the following year (sort of like the VHS release date scheduling when home video buyers had to wait a year in order to purchase an affordable VHS tape). Upon first impression, the idea of an Easter movie starring a CGI Easter Bunny may create groans from adults, but come on, the demographics for these holiday movies are for children! There is nothing wrong with movie companies making movies for children only. Just as Christmas movies are marketed to children, I’m not going to be a Grinch and complain how HOP was not for me. I’m not going to whine about how holiday movies are just trying to brainwash people into buying, buying, and buying. If you read other reviews of HOP, you’ll see that selfish critics are grading the film for themselves. For an adult critic to give a low grade to a children’s film that children love is the same as a child giving a low grade to a well-respected film marketed to adults. For example, The Descendants and The Help were highly acclaimed movies marketed to adults, but kids would call these films boring and bad if they tried to watch them.
Continuing the recent trend of movie marketing departments set on finding the hippest-sounding movie title so that both boys and girls are equally convinced to see a new children’s film, HOP could have simply been given the classier title like THE EASTER BUNNY, especially since HOP is pretty much the first Easter movie. Trendy titles get dated fast. If you want a movie to leave a long-lasting impression, I would have gone with a more traditional title. We all saw how Disney’s awesome RAPUNZEL was re-titled as TANGLED in the USA, while every other country in the world kept the classic title. I wonder if the marketing department for PUSS IN BOOTS considered PUSS as the title for American audiences, but I’m sure that title would have hurt ticket sales.
Universal has given us a beautiful 1080p 1.85:1 image. While I’m not surprised that the live-action scenes look bright, sharp, vibrant, and clean, the stand-out scenes are the ones that take place in the candy factory in Easter Island. The vast detail of the factory, machinery, gears, conveyor belts, chicks, and candy gave me that same feeling I had when I had first watched Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. I was also blown away by the bizarre-looking Easter Bunny vehicle powered by hundreds of chicks – the creative design of the vehicle and its detail flattered by the impressive video quality reminded me of when I first saw the balloons pop out of the old man’s house in Pixar’s UP. The animation artists all did an A+ job and their work stands out on this Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is pleasingly active with absolute clarity. This audio mix is tested from beginning to end – from the sounds of the candy factory, to E.B.’s drumming, and to subtle background sounds. Surround sound speakers and subwoofer are consistently used in a very immersive audio experience. Universal put a lot of love into this mix and the DTS-HD 5.1 does not disappoint. Voice acting by Brand and Azaria stands out nicely as well. In one of his most likable roles, Russell Brand makes a very believable talking rabbit. I would have given the audio mix a perfect score, but there were a few sudden bursts of jarring loudness that made me jump for my volume control.
Spanish DTS 5.1 and French DTS 5.1 audio choices, as well as English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are also included.
Don’t be fooled by the long list of extras and the fancy packaging teasing us with exclusives. “The World of Hop” is sort of interesting, but all these extras amount to a whole bunch of nothing and aren’t really worth watching. The “All New Mini-Movie” is basically a three-minute scene of two chicks dancing, which feels like a pre-production animation test deleted scene. The “All New Mini-Movie” label should not have been printed on the Blu-ray spine as well (both on the slip-cover spine and on the inner cover spine), because it overpowers the HOP title on the spine. On a shelf next to other Blu-rays, all I see is a movie called “ALL NEW MINI-MOVIE”. I can’t believe it’s labeled all over the packaging. The Russell Brand clips aren’t that funny. Why do they still put games on Blu-rays? Kids are playing Wii, Playstation, XBox, and Smartphone games nowadays. Every time I see a “games” extra on Blu-rays, I think of the “Register your DVD” option that used to be on DVDs.
– The World of Hop (9 minutes)
– Phil’s Dance Party (3 minutes)
– All Access with Cody Simpson (2 minutes)
– Russell Brand: Being the Bunny (1 minute)
– Russell Brand’s Kid Crack Ups (3 minutes)
– Carlos on Carlos: The Premiere According to Carlos (4 minutes)
– Emotion in Motion: The Dance of Ken Daurio (3 minutes)
– Post Coup Commentary: Carlos & Phil Tell All (3 minutes)
– U-Control Features
Christmas, Halloween, and Easter are exciting holidays for kids, so let them enjoy these fun holiday movies while they are young. Even if Hollywood stopped making these kiddy holiday films, nothing will prevent the children from evolving into brainwashed consumers! Bring on the CGI animated films for Valentine’s Day, Columbus Day, and Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to see kids eat them up and see adults be irritated by them!
HOP is funny, entertaining, and has good animation that merges well with the live-action elements. If you have kids, if you are a fan of films mainly marketed to children or if you are just curious to see how Hollywood pulled off an Easter movie, I definitely recommend checking out HOP!