The Back of Beyond


My girlfriend and I went to see the American animated comedy Over The Hedge last night. The verdict: Generally good, with some great acting talent, well-constructed set pieces, and the visuals were consistently gorgeous. Kids will love it. On last night’s evidence, some will actually wet themselves with pleasure. I can’t remember the last time I wet myself with pleasure, but I’m almost certain it wasn’t at the cinema.

Listeners to The Good Doctor on BBC Five Live might be familiar with the phrase ‘This film represents the death of narrative cinema’, which Dr Kermode extorts his listeners to shout after films like Ice Age II – which, though passable, suffers from a lack of narrative backbone. I must tell you, gentle reader, that I was powerful tempted (as they used to say in Rawhide) to make this announcement over the credits of Over The Hedge. Why? Because, as we see so often, the film fires on all cylinders but one: script.

Script writing is, of course, a collaborative effort. And where McDuck-sized swimming pools of ingots are concerned, the collaboration goes up a gear. This seems to push the story structure towards archetypical elements that, it is presumed, speak to the hearts o’everyone. I’m not so sure. When aggressively applied, these rules suck the life out of a story. It isn’t enough to have your embattled protagonist get his call to adventure on script page 5, end Act 1 with a set-piece that sees him almost achieve his goals, start Act 3 with a last, desperate attempt to achieve them, yada yada yada. The narrative structure of Over The Hedge is virtually identical to Chicken Run. Why? Because Chicken Run made money?

Over The Hedge isn’t the death of narrative cinema, but I can hear John Lassiter shouting “Code blue!” Let’s hope his defib panels have some oomph.

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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