Maybe things would have clued in when Illumination sought to hire the services of Tim Hill. Tim Hill is a director who has come to specialise in live-action talking animals films with the likes of Muppets from Space (1999), Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties (2006), Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007) and Grumpy Cats Worst Christmas Ever (2014), as well as having written 68 episodes of Spongebob Squarepants (1999 ) and The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004) and produced Walking With Dinosaurs (2013). Almost all of Tim Hills directorial outings blend live-action humans and CGI animals and make a virtue of the animals voicing hip, smartass one-liners and cracking lots of contemporary pop culture references. This is an irritating tendency that has taken over modern family entertainment. Among these, Tim Hills films are some of the most excruciating.
When you think of a film about a cute smartass talking Easter Bunny, your imagination comes up against a dead end. Let us for a moment digress and look at the tradition of Easter and the Easter Bunny. Easter is a holiday that has been established as a Christian celebration since 325 A.D. and represents the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There was the claim made in the writings of the monk Venerable Bede that this celebration and the name Easter is a derivation from pagan festivals held for the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, although no proof of her existence has been found outside of Bedes writings. Easter is also associated with traditions of painting eggs different colours and in modern times of giving gifts of eggs made of chocolate or candy. The tradition is believed to have originated in the early Catholic Church where eggs were dyed red to symbolise the blood of Christ and cracked on Easter Sunday to represent the opening of his tomb and the resurrection. The idea of the Easter Bunny a bunny that would hide eggs or egg-shaped candies around the home for children to find on Easter morning grew out of German Christian traditions and was popularised by the Brothers Grimm.
Now, just stop for a moment and contrast these traditions of Easter with Hop. Is Hop a film commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Nope. Maybe something to do with the pagan goddess Eostre? Nope. Are there any bunnies that come and hide candied eggs around the house? Yes. Do maybe these eggs represent the blood of Christ or any Christian symbol? Nope. Does maybe Hop even pay tribute to Easter being a Christian tradition? Another big nope. Does Christ or Christianity even get the smallest namedrop somewhere throughout the film. Ahhhh, no to that either. All that we have is a film about a smartass talking bunny who, with predictable Tim Hill screen antics, desires to be a rock drummer. Now, I cannot say I am in favour of films that preach Christianity but I tend to think if you are going to set a film around one of the principal holidays on the Christian calendar it does seem a little insulting not to have any reference to the tradition whatsoever.
In removing all religious significance from the Easter Bunny story, this leaves Hop thin on the ground in terms of story material. In terms of mythology, all that we have is a film about a bunny who lives on Easter Island and travels the world delivering Easter eggs. After running out of secular ideas they can draw on, the writers have resorted to borrowing from the Santa Claus myth the Easter Bunny now travels in a sleigh, which in one of the films more ridiculous touches is drawn by a chattering of chicks. The plot elements of the Easter Bunnys son trying to fit in in the outside world, of an evil associate wanting to take over and run Easter his way, of the human who inherits the role at the end are all big cliche plot threads from various Christmas films, in particular ones that were used throughout the Santa Clause series not too surprising given that Hops co-writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio also wrote The Santa Clause 2 (2002).
The rest of Hop is based on a series of easy and exceedingly predictable audience-pleasing gags. Indeed, the plot seems to have almost been copied direct from Tim Hills Alvin and the Chipmunks smartass talking animal(s) end up shacked up with a down-and-out average joe; grudging friendship ensues even though average joe has his life and house turned upside down by the animal(s) antics; talking animal(s) set out to prove themselves by succeeding as musicians. The role of E.B. is voiced by British comedian du jour Russell Brand (and in fact was a probable part of the reason that Hop was a bigger box-office success than predicted), although Brands casting results in the bunny talking with a high nasal register that quickly irritates. (The real Russell Brand can be briefly spotted as the stagehand who gives E.B. his stage call). The one who ends up stealing the show is a surprisingly self-effacing David Hasselhoff the line Wait, youre not amazed that Im a talking bunny? and his reply My best friend is a talking car brings the house down. It is perhaps that some of his humour is more on the ball and less ingratiating, less rampant with the need to pitch everything to pop culture that makes Hop marginally more tolerable than most of Tim Hills other talking animals films.
Illumination Entertainment subsequently went onto make the animated adaptation of Dr Seusss The Lorax (2012), followed by Despicable Me 2 (2013), Minions (2015), The Secret Life of Pets (2016), Sing (2016) and Despicable Me 3 (2017).