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Let's Avoid the Hop (oh baby)

BY SDG

| Posted 4/12/11 at 8:11 AM

 

The mere existence of a movie like Hop is depressing enough. That family audiences have embraced it, even amid a paucity of alternatives, is far worse. “An act of aggression against childhood” is how one critic aptly described this movie. If so, family audiences are tragically codependent. Hop is the kind of movie that makes helpless critics wish we could stage an intervention. Parents! It doesn’t have to come to this!

Hop appears to have been conceived in the minds of studio executives contemplating The Santa Clause and its dismal ilk and concluding that if it worked for Christmas, it will work for Easter too. As bad as the trailers make it look, the movie is worse.

Have you seen that gag scriptment for Avatar that takes Disney’s Pocahontas and changes a few names and details? That’s what Hop does for the Santa Clause movies. The edits would look like this: North Pole Easter Island; toys candy; elves chicks; reindeer chicks; evil toy Santa evil chick; Rescue ELFS Pink Beret Rabbits; etc.

Instead of Tim Allen as a bitter divorcé turning into Santa Claus, you’ve got James Marsden as a thirtyish slacker named Fred O’Hare becoming the Easter Bunny. Except that in Fred’s case it’s actually his own idea. No, really. Instead of a Bizarro Santa simulacrum taking over Santa’s North Pole workshop, there’s a scheming Easter chick named Carlos plotting to take over the Easter Island candy factory.

Charles Dickens popularized a secular Christmas celebration of family, cheer and charity for one’s fellow man, a tradition continued and ennobled in It’s a Wonderful Life. Even The Grinch tipped its Santy hat to the notion that holiday spirit is more than presents and toys. By contrast, the Christmas of the Santa Clause movies is a purely material affair—and, in that spirit, Hop reduces Easter to nothing but candy. Nothing about even spring and new life, let alone, well, you know.

Hop’s contempt and indeed active hostility for Easter yields a gratuitous throwaway line in which the Easter Bunny, upset that his young son doesn’t want to follow him into the family business, snaps, “4,000 years of tradition doesn’t end just because one selfish bunny doesn’t feel like doing it.” Way to actually diss Jesus ... in an Easter movie.

Is a historical excursus really necessary here? Despite widespread claims to the contrary, the Easter bunny’s supposed pagan roots seem to be greatly exaggerated if not entirely fictional. Yes, rabbits and eggs are ancient symbols of of spring, fertility and new life. And sure, the practice of coloring eggs may have pre-Christian roots.

As far as I know, though, the association of eggs and rabbits—specifically, the notion of a magical rabbit laying colored eggs, hiding them for children, etc.—seems to be a creation of 16th-century German Christians. I’m aware of no evidence of a direct line of cultural descent connecting this figure with Germany’s first-millennium pagan roots. Eggs, of course, were associated with Easter not only as symbols of new life, but also because like other animal products eggs were traditionally verboten during Lent and came back at Easter.

Bottom line: The Easter bunny as we know him is a figure of Christian culture.

Of course, the “4,000 years of tradition” thing only goes so far. If a slacker bunny like E.B. (Russell Brand), son of the current Easter Bunny (Hugh Laurie), doesn’t want the job, it’s a crisis. If an ambitious chick like Carlos (Hank Azaria) dreams of taking over Easter, it’s laughable. However, if a thirtysomething human slacker who has moved back in with his parents, plays video games, crashes and burns at job interviews and has no discernible skills or interests suddenly decides that he would like to be the Easter Bunny, roll out the red carpet!

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