Wild World

Bruce Willis has his most convincing action hero role in some time, supplying the voice for a wily raccoon on a mission. The raccoon, a loner whose name is RJ, hooks up with a community of woodland creatures, leads them to the promised land of suburbia, introduces them to the glories of junk food, and shows them how to snatch the stuff in a series of daring heists pitched somewhere between Rififi and Oceans Eleven. The catch here is that the raccoon has a hidden agenda — to eventually snag all the food for himself (specifically, for an intimidating bear he owes big time) — but, this being DreamWorks' latest PG-rated animation, the proper life lessons kick in just in time to ensure happy endings all around.

It's not quite Aesop's Fables, but it'll do. Over the Hedge won't change anyone's life — the movie lacks the rafters-raising wit of a Shrek or the emotional richness of Pixar's best stuff — but this is solid, second-tier kiddie fare, and an awful lot of fun. The story (sassy animals dealing with encroaching civilization) is basically another riff on an overly familiar theme, but it's handled with confidence, style, good humor and a streamlined narrative that moves along at a nice clip. The movie achieves an appealing balance, rarely coming off as too cute or too self-consciously clever (even the pop culture references are held to a blessed minimum), and there are some beautiful slapstick sequences along the way. Pay particular attention to the movie's human villain — a big-haired, controlling Queen Bitch — and tell me if she isn't the spitting image of a certain Hillsborough County Commissioner. Features the voices of Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell and Nick Nolte.

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