I fondly remember rummaging through the thick shrubs of my parent’s backyard for strategically placed Easter eggs with my brother, relishing the instinctual hunt like a true collector vying to complete a pastel masterpiece. What I don’t remember was obsessing over the look or sound of the actual Easter Bunny. The fantastical hip-hopping rabbit always seemed strangely enigmatic to me, more a symbolic cipher than a full-blown holiday character a la Santa Claus. Still, I never could have imagined the traditionally caring, giving, and overall good-natured egg courier as a British-accented slacker with sugarcoated bowels. Thanks to Tim Hill’s compulsively obnoxious animated/live-action puff piece Hop, my endgame nightmare—and those of many small children everywhere—has come true.
Hop opens with a long line of oil paintings depicting the historical lineage of the Easter Bunny, an impressive timeline of freethinking and politically active bunnies that unimpressively ends on a picture of a smiling human named Fred O’Hare (James Marsden). Fred’s childish gattling-gun voiceover narration sprays exposition freely, explaining that he’s just been anointed the first human Easter Bunny. A few flashbacks later, we’ve met the current Easter Bunny (Hugh Laurie), his rebellious teenage son and heir to the throne E.B. (Russell Brand), and the legion of yellow chicks running the epic seasonal operation from Rapa Nui, Easter Island. The underground candy-making bunker looks like the leftover scraps from Burton’s Charlie and Chocolate Factory set, all movement and momentum, no heart and soul.
A parallel slacker narrative unfolds. E.B. dreads his impending coronation into the legendary family business, escaping to Los Angeles to follow his dream of becoming a bona fide rock-star drummer. Hill then cross cuts to Van Nuys, California, where the shit-grinning Fred is in a transitional bind of his own. Hounded by not-so-loving parents (Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins) to get a job and get out, Fred decides to housesit for his sister Sam’s (Kaley Cuoco) wealthy boss. The deadbeat human and the deadbeat animated rabbit cross paths after Fred runs over E.B. with his car, and at this juncture Hop turns into a full-blown hang-out picture between two thoughtless lumps roaming the City of Angels trying to ascertain some much needed purpose. Needless to say, it’s a torturous, juvenile process.
Like every entry in the taxing holiday subgenre, problems arise from the juxtaposition of contrasting foils. E.B. makes Fred’s life miserable, ruining a job interview and soiling the mansion he’s supposed to guard with his life. On the other hand, E.B. tries to escape a trio of super ninja bunnies named the Pink Berets, soldiers from his father’s royal guard trying to bring him back home. Chaos ensues, and amazingly, once Fred and E.B. venture out into the real world, including a hilariously stupid interaction with David Hasselhoff, no one seems to find a talking, jelly bean-pooping bunny all that strange. The entire human universe, even Chelsea Handler as a slightly annoyed video game company executive, has gone crazy, taking the flat animated aesthetics (made famous in the Alvin and the Chipmonks films) at face value.
Throughout its arduous and prosaic narrative, Hop only shows momentary glimmers of life, like the sequence where E.B. poses as a stuffed animal to get friendly with Sam. The sexual innuendo and posturing is raunchy and unexpected, while the ensuing slapstick battle with Fred reveals a gleeful glimpse of the film Hop could have been. Also, the socialist undercurrent in the subplot of head chick Carlos (Hank Azaria), who makes an impassioned Marxist speech to his fellow chicks in order to ensure an Easter coup d’etat, is especially biting when compared to the rest of the hollow ideological mud splattering against the wall. Unlike E.B. or Fred, we can feel Carlos’s pain, who’s been stuck in the mind-numbingly repetitive production process for decades.
By the time cropped panels of dancing chicks and lame pop music flood the end credits, I couldn’t help but think children everywhere will now associate Easter with this heaping pile of run-of-the-mill theatrics and sight gags. While it’s pretty obvious we didn’t even need a film on Easter, I’m certain the Easter Bunny is far more interesting as a less developed, but wonderfully symbolic marker of seasonal transition. Gone are the days of childlike mystery, and in their place we have the childish Hop.