July 5th, 2006

Over the Hedge

We saw this rather delightful little animated effort and laughed a lot. The rather simple plot is that a conniving raccoon, "R.J." (voiced by Bruce Willis) is deeply in hock to a murderous bear (a sort of one-creature mob, Nick Nolte) and sleazes the unwitting help of a group of other beasts who have just woken up from hibernation to find that their woodland habitat has been reduced to a bit of greenspace left in the middle of a suburban housing development. Nevertheless, the story has some decent subtleties: it shows, for example, how easily the woodland creatures can become addicted to the sweet, salt, grease and spice of abundant human trash, especially when there are few other options. The discovery/reconciliation/redemption story arc regarding R.J.'s plot is a familar one, but I was not prepared for disaster to strike when "Vern" (a tortoise, the animal's spiritual leader, Garry Shandling) attempts to unilaterally take matters into his own hands, showing that well-meant rash action can be just as harmful as deliberate deception, at least in the short run. The attempt to recover from this major setback has R.J. organizing the cratures into a "caper" that fans of old-time "Mission: Impossible" will enjoy. And, just because it's a funny animal movie doesn't mean you can't have a car chase--.

The various critters are lots of fun, although I admit I chiefly went to see William Shatner send up his own ham-acting reputation as "Ozzie" the oppossum into melodramatic "death" scenes. There's actually some charming interaction with him and the daughter opossum "Heather" (Avril Lavigne). Willis has pretty good comic timing as R.J., Nolte is wonderfully growly as "Vinnie" the bear, and fun supporting performances by Wanda Sykes as "Stella" the scruffy and dejected skunk; Catherine O'Hhara and Eugene Levy as a pair of "Yooper" porcupines, and Steve Carrell as "Hammie", the hyperactive (and hypointelligent) squirrel.

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

Rated PG, but pretty good for all ages. I can't think of anything too bad for children, but cute animals in peril during the crisis might be rather intense.

Some late Independence Day Declarations

Regarding the Supreme Court's recent judgement against Bush's "military tribunals" I do declare this is a good thing. Of course the administration has been fighting tooth and nail to keep the matter from even getting to the court, but it's about time the courts started taking back some of their perogatives from the administration's naked power grabs. We do not NEED military tribunals to defend freedom. If the detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere have commited crimes, let them be brought into courts of competent jurisdiction: if not, let them go.

We do not NEED legal black hole prison camps. We do not NEED torture or extraordinary rendition. We do not NEED massive warrantless searches and seizures of telephone or banking records. As far as I can see, we do not need any of the great book of civil-liberty eroding measures passed under the name "PATRIOT Act". I don't think any one can point to a single terrorist or act of terror halted by these actions or enactions. The seven terrorist-wannabees that were just apprehended were caught the old-fashioned way--by an informant. All these things are just what people in power think they want in order to stay there.

Regarding the Senate's one-vote turndown of the so-called "flag descration amendment'. Another good thing: this is a pure wedge issue, and a pernicious one at that. The flag may be the symbol of our democratic republic, but the Constitution is the substance. To dilute the substance to protect the symbol makes no sense. Furthermore, to suggest that such an amendment honors our war dead is simpleminded at best: I do not believe that any American soldier has died "for the flag" since the Civil War, when colors were still carried onto the battlefield as a rallying point. I believe that if you summoned up the ghost of any World War II 'G.I. Joe' and asked if he died for the flag, he'd say, "Hell, no! I died to protect my country, my home, my family, our way of life. There was no flag in the foxhole where I died."
Of course, to knowingly desecrate the flag is an offensive act, intentionally so. But you know, America was founded by a lot of ornery people, and it is our right to occasionally offend if we feel it is necessary.