by Tim Ross

Let’s get this out of the way: “Hop” is a bit of a rotten egg. A little cracked. I’m not sure the filmmakers should count their box office earnings before they hatch.

OK, I’m finished with the puns. But with a film that puts so many clichés in one basket, I could hardly help myself.

In the usual fashion with family movies, I brought along my two boys, 5 and 6½. While many members of the audience laughed throughout the film, my little guys just munched away at their popcorn and barely made a sound. That’s generally a bad sign.

So am I saying that “Hop” is a bad movie? Well, probably not for the vast majority of the children that will come to see it and some of the adults as well. However, it’s part of the unfortunate trend in Hollywood of gathering a bunch of star voices together, throwing lots of color on the screen, using a scat joke or two and trying to pass it off as good story telling.

Just because a film is animated doesn’t mean it can’t have a compelling story. “Toy Story 3,” “Tangled” and “Despicable Me” all tell wonderful stories, so perhaps this reviewer is just spoiled.

James Marsden, of X-Men fame, is our human hero Fred O’Hare (get it?). The film opens with O’Hare as a child, catching the Easter Bunny in action in his backyard. Fast-forward 20 years and O’Hare is a boomerang adult living with his parents and no future in sight.

Now we journey to Easter Island where our fuzzy hero is an unhappy bunny named E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand). E.B. is next in line to become the Easter Bunny like his father and 4,000 years worth of generations before him, but this bunny has loftier plans. Instead of bringing candy and joy to kids around the world each Easter Sunday, E.B. wants to play drums.

The story, such as it is, just gets sillier from there.

E.B. runs away from his fate, O’Hare runs toward his, they meet in Beverly Hills and an unlikely friendship develops. Along the way, not one person, except for O’Hare, questions the existence of a talking rabbit.

Meanwhile, back on Easter Island, a revolt is brewing and dear, old dad Easter Bunny sends out a rabbit ninja team to bring back E.B. However, the second-in-command, a chick named Carlos (Hank Azaria) has other plans – a coup de tat.

The rest is all color, funny voices and a predictable ending. The best part of the film may be the beginning – a well-crafted, innovative sequence where we are first introduced to the Easter Bunny’s factory and find out how all of that yummy candy is made.

Director Tim Hill’s earlier work was almost entirely devoted to helming SpongeBob SquarePants films and episodes, so it’s no surprise that some of the funniest moments are linked to bodily functions and bad smells.

Perhaps I am being too hard on a children’s film, but there’s enough talent on the screen to make “Hop,” well, hop to higher heights than it achieves.

Grade: 1.5/4 Stars