The latest DreamWorks Animation gathers together a selection of cute critters with - of course - famous voices for this entertaining comedy with a (slightly) ecological message. 'Over the Hedge' is based on the syndicated American comic strip of the same name in which woodland creatures have to engage in a tug-of-war with the encroaching humans that have moved into what used to be their untouched habitat.
A community of foragers, led by an overly cautious turtle named Verne (voiced by Shandling) awake from winter hibernation to discover suburbia, and its attendant hedges, have taken over the majority of their forest and food sources. Before the oddly assorted family - Stella the smartass skunk (Sykes), a porcupine family headed by Penny (O'Hara) and Lou (Levy), demented squirrel Hammy (Carell), daddy possum Ozzie (Shatner) and his daughter Heather (Lavigne) - have quite realised what has happened, cocky racoon RJ (Willis, in full 'Moonlighting' mode) arrives on the scene. He has a simple solution: the humans have too much food, just steal it from them. Although Verne's not too sure about the situation, the rest of the forest-dwellers, quickly hooked on carbohydrates, caffeine and sugar, are like a bunch of toddlers let loose in a sweet shop. But what they don't know is that RJ has an ulterior motive: he needs all the food that they're collecting to repay a big debt to an angry bear (Nolte).
While the plot may be thin and its reliance on junk food dodgy, to say the least, there is still plenty of fun and energy in 'Over the Hedge' to keep younger children entertained. Their accompanying elders will fully appreciate the vocal twists that Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara contribute as a provincial porcupine couple, while comedian Wanda Sykes makes the strutting most of skunk diva Stella. William Shatner hams it up brilliantly during his possum's frequent death scenes - especially the one where he manages to reference 'Citizen Kane' - and there's also a wonderful 'Streetcar Named Desire' moment between a transformed Stella and Ossie (Djalili), her pedigree paramour.
'Over the Hedge' showcases no major advances in CGI animation but the look of the film is sharp and detailed, with a few genuinely imaginative visual moments and the animal characters are appropriately appealing. Good frothy family fun.