There haven’t been all that many movies made about Easter—if you set aside religious ones—and this family fantasy about the Easter Bunny is a good indication why. In order to create a hoped-for holiday perennial, “Hop” jumps through hoops, conflating a spring-flavored variant of “The Santa Clause” with “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” The result is bad enough to make you wish for a return to winter.
The live-action half of the starring duo is James Marston, an affable fellow here forced to bug out his eyes and play the complete fool as Fred O’Hare, a slacker type ejected from his all-too-comfortable suburban home by his father (Gary Cole), who’s tired of his son’s indolence. Fortunately Fred’s sister (Kaley Cuoco) is able to offer him an implausibly plush place to stay—the Beverly Hills mansion of her boss, which needs house-sitting.
On driving there Fred literally runs into E.B., a talking CGI rabbit voiced by Russell Brand. E.B. is the son of the Easter Bunny (Hugh Laurie), and he’s run away from home because he wants to be a rock drummer rather than succeed his dad in the family business. The pushy little guy moves in with Fred, who’s nonplussed by the critter’s presence until he learns who he is—because, you see, as a kid he’d actually seen the Easter Bunny arrive on his lawn in his chick-drawn egg-sleigh and has been enamored of the ritual ever since!
This is a goofy premise to begin with, but it’s made all the worse by the idiotic flourishes the trio of screenwriters have festooned it with. The worst certainly involves E.B.’s encounters with David Hasselhoff, playing himself as some sort of talent guru and looking positively bloated and waxen. But a thread about three ninja rabbits sent by his father to find him isn’t much better.
There is some modest compensation in the subplot concerning Carlos (Hank Azaria), the oversized chick who’s the Easter Bunny’s lieutenant in the candy factory (modeled after Willy Wonka’s, apparently) and has ambitions to take over the top job. The army he assembles around him is overly reminiscent of the minis from “Despicable Me” (made by the same folks), but and his attempted coup d’etat in the last reel goes on far too long, but earlier on his asides offer some chuckles. And an occasional bright bit happens by, almost by accident. One, in which E.B. pretends to be one of a group of stuffed animals and then a mechanical doll, isn’t just a clever allusion to E.T. but has some genuinely amusing, slightly risque material added in the form of E.B.’s interaction with Fred’s sister.
But that’s about all there is to enjoy. Virtually all the slapstick between E.B. and Fred is depressingly manic, and a major set-piece in which they do a ventriloquist act together, though wildly applauded by the on-screen audience, is gruesomely unfunny. When one gets to the point where a limp encounter between the love-action Russell Banks and the animated character he’s voicing is intended as a bright spot, you know the picture’s in deep trouble. E.B., quite frankly, is overall more irritating than lovable, no Bugs Bunny or even Roger Rabbit, even in the musical interlude where he joins the Blind Boys of America in a jam session. And the big action finale involving Carlos’ coup is tedious in the extreme.
It goes without saying, of course, that visually “Hop” is fine. The CGI is expertly meshed with the live-action footage, and it’s decently shot and edited. The movie also gets points for not being in 3D, always a blessing nowadays.
But all the technical pizzazz in the world wouldn’t be enough to make “Hop” anything more than a feeble, puerile riff on Hollywood holiday cliches. It lays one big, though colorful, Easter egg.