Code yellow: Animals more fun than Hanks

Reeling It In

Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2006

This weekend had a kind of David and Goliath feel to it at the movies. A giant, bloated behemoth of a movie went head to head with a frisky little cartoon, and guess what? David got stomped. I wish I could continue the analogy by saying the raccoon hurled an acorn at Tom Hanks oddly slicked-back head and took him down, but in reality “Over the Hedge” made a mere $37 million as compared to “Da Vinci’s” $224 million worldwide take.

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  "Over the Hedge" DreamWorks 1 hour, 27 minutes DreamWorks

But you know something? Smaller though it was, “Hedge” was a lot more fun.


"Da Vinci Code"

Columbia Pictures

2 hours, 29 minutes


“The Da Vinci Code” is a movie that has been so eagerly anticipated that it was surely bound to fall flat. Rarely can a creative endeavor stand up to the extreme mix of hero worship and animosity that “Da Vinci” has faced without bowing under the pressure. This is made especially clear when you realize that “Da Vinci” is a paper tiger. It has been touted as one of the best books of our generation, and it is simply not that well written.

What it has going for it is a killer hook. Robert Langdon is a symbologist, someone who reasons out the whys, hows and whens of various kinds of iconography. Where does the Star of David come from? What do military stripes really represent? That kind of thing. When he is called in on, and then becomes the main suspect of, a grisly murder in the Louvre, it’s a race against time to unlock the clues left to him by the victim. The clues will lead him around Europe and eventually to the most earth-shattering discovery of our age! Which I won’t relate here. OK, I will. Jesus was married. There — that’s the secret.

There’s more to it, involving Mary Magdalene and how the Catholic Church has worked furiously to cover it all up through the ages. There’s secret societies, albino hit-monks, and nefariously clever gadgets, but basically it all hinges on that one premise. Jesus was married.

It’s a good hook, and when you read the book, you’re pretty surprised and fascinated. But as the book was released years ago, and as every entertainment news agency in the world has reported on said hook, the movie has very little to grab you with. There are other, lesser surprises in the film, but with the main cat out of the bag, “Da Vinci” is handicapped from the beginning.

That said, it’s not a bad movie. It’s a little long and ponderous, but Tom Hanks does a pretty good job, as does French actress Audrey Tautou, and mad monk Paul Bettany. I also appreciated, though some critics have disagreed, that the film makes an attempt to cater to both sides of the argument. While the villains in the film, and the protesters outside seem to imply that the truth of the secret will destroy Christianity, Hank’s Langdon, giving voice to the director, I imagine, offers both the suggestion that it’s all just conjecture — a theory, and even if it’s true, why should that have an effect on Christ’s divinity?

The film seems to say, and I agree, that there is no proof of anything, on either side, so why let a story affect your belief system? See “The Da Vinci Code” for what it is: a mildly entertaining treasure hunt with an interesting, but ultimately unverifiable premise, and leave it at that. Grade: B-

“The Da Vinci Code” is rated PG-13 for adult themes, violence and brief nudity and sexual situations.


"Over the Hedge"


1 hour, 27 minutes


On the other hand, see “Over the Hedge” as a surprisingly sweet, energetic and hilarious ecological fable. For those familiar with the newspaper daily comic strip, the characters will be instantly recognizable, though the story is all new. Think of this as “Over the Hedge — The Beginning.”

For those not familiar, never fear. No back-story is required. RJ is a raccoon with a lust for snacks. When he attempts to steal a cache of junk food from a hibernating bear, RJ accidentally destroys the food and is left with a choice. Replace the goodies or become a goody himself.

Verne is a turtle who, along with his “family” — a group of porcupines, a skunk, a manic squirrel and a couple of ’possums — live out life blissfully in a wilderness, foraging and frolicking in their unspoiled eden.

Unfortunately, over the long sleepy winter, civilization has come, and all that separates the animals’ small island of forest from suburbia is the giant titular hedge. RJ, using his sneaky raccoon wiles, soon joins the family and cons them into raiding the suburban households for the snacks he needs, giving way to an exciting, funny and lesson-filled adventure.

“Over the Hedge” is the best work that the DreamWorks Animation group has done since the “Shrek” movies, and unlike “Shrek,” “Hedge” is devoid of any of those icky, this-is-funny-but-I-wish-I-hadn’t-brought-my-4-year-old moments. Other than a few skunk jokes, “Hedge” is totally inoffensive, but still retains a smart sense of humor without feeling too kiddie.

The old cliche “Fun for the whole family!” actually works here, in the same way “Finding Nemo” was. “Over the Hedge” isn’t exactly in the same league with that movie, but for an entertaining outing, you could do a whole lot worse. Grade: A-

“Over the Hedge” is rated PG for a few scenes of comic action and some very mild rude humor.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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