Time: 96 mins.
SYNOPSIS: A scheming raccoon fools a mismatched family of forest creatures into helping him repay a debt of food to an angry bear, by invading the new suburban sprawl that popped up while they were hibernating.
BOTTOM LINE: A clever take on consumerism that will tickle both parents and kids alike. Adapted from the comic strip of the same name created by Michael Fry and T. Lewis about how to stay connected to the natural world while enjoying the carefree comforts and technology of the modern one. To expand the film, they've added a few new characters, but the basic style and concept is still the same. All the voices are perfectly cast as their creature counterparts with Willis as the sly raccoon RJ, Shandling as the overprotective turtle Vern and Carell as the hyperactive squirrel Hammy, leading the pack.
It's a simple story with an overt message lying is bad, friendship is good that is made palatable by plenty of clever jokes and adventurous antics. Though the animals' world is fairly small – they all hibernate together in a giant log – the filmmakers create excitement by making life on the other side of the hedge both magical and monstrous. Their encounters with the humans are initially harmless, but their hijinks aren't amusing to the homeowners and they quickly find themselves on the run for their lives from an angry exterminator.
Every character gets a moment to shine, however, Carell's Hammy steals the show and ends up saving the day in an action sequence that had me unexpectedly laughing my head off. The visual style is intensely colorful, distinct and intricate, giving the animal characters a cartoony, yet realistic look that's amazing to behold. As usual, the people look just plain weird, which doesn't necessarily hurt the story here since they are alien to the animals. A first-rate effort that might have worn thin if the action wasn't so outstanding and the characters so cute, clever and cuddly.