Anyone bewailing the near-absence of tacky family films inspired by Easter need bewail no more: Hop has arrived to fill the void. A mix of live-action and animation, the film proves that a lack of inspiration need not be limited to a single style. Though the endearingly rendered animated characters designed by Peter De Sève (Finding Nemo, Ice Age) show care, every other aspect of the film feels like an afterthought, a lazy collection of easy-even-for-a-kid-movie jokes loosely organized to tell the origin story of the “first human Easter Bunny,” a tale that never feels as if it needed to be told.
James Marsden plays the Easter Bunny-to-be. He begins the film as a jobless slacker still living at home with his parents (Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins) and disinclined to follow his family’s pressure to get a real job. Marsden looks far too old for the part, which might explain why he overcompensates with an embarrassing amount of boyish enthusiasm. Or maybe he’s just trying to hold his own against his cartoon foil and folkloric parallel: a magical bunny named E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) who wants to avoid his destiny of taking over for his father (Hugh Laurie) and becoming the Easter Bunny. After E.B. escapes to Los Angeles, he whisks Marsden through a series of half-assed adventures, including a disastrous job interview with a videogame company’s stern HR rep (Chelsea Handler) and a tryout for a talent show hosted by David Hasselhoff (continuing his strange journey from primetime star to punchline to self-aware punchline to sad embodiment of the long-term effects of continued exposure to irony). That’s hardly enough to stretch the film to feature-length, so Hop also occasionally flashes back to life at the Easter Factory—on Easter Island, naturally—where Laurie’s Easter Bunny remains oblivious to a coup attempt by an ambitious chick (Hank Azaria).
Director Tim Hill’s past credits include Alvin And The Chipmunks, which looks lively by comparison. Even Brand seems neutered. Maybe that’s because even a toned-down version of his loose-cannon persona sounds all wrong coming out of a character who looks so sweet he even poops jelly beans. At least that moment provides a convenient metaphor for the film around it: candy-coated or otherwise, crap’s still crap.