rating: 2There are many ways to sell an animated film, but having it directed by the man responsible for the more painful of the two horrid Garfield films - listed among Bill Murray's sole regrets, no less - is not one of them. But a solid cast is a solid cast; Hop boasts the voices of Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie and Hank Azaria, while featuring live action turns from James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Elizabeth Perkins and Gary Cole. Are they slumming it, or can they somehow elevate an idea that so brazenly rips off Tim Allen's The Santa Clause? Perhaps the one refreshing thing Hop has going for it is a surprising lack of 3D, especially considering the visually elaborate opening; a pass through the Easter Island factory, where all the chocolate is made, replete with CGI fountains of the tasty stuff. The sickly visuals will certainly tempt anyone with a sweet tooth, and kids will doubtless be left salivating, for the visual effects are impressive for a film produced on a tighter budget than most mainstream animated fare. However, this promise soon goes to pot once the live actors are forced to interact with their animated co-stars, as is true of so many films of this type. An overabundance of pop music, a dull, inane plot, and a criminal squandering of Russell Brand's wily charms are just a few of the reasons why Hop ostensibly fails. Instead of crafting a storied celebration of Easter, Hop feels desperately keen to stay relevant, shoehorning in pop culture references into a story about a teenage rabbit, E.B. (Brand) who shirks the responsibility of taking up the mantle of the Easter Bunny in favour of pursuing a drumming career in Hollywood. E.B. plays the video game Rock Band incessantly, as though contractually-mandated, and it would seriously be of little surprise. In Hollywood, E.B. lives with a human, Fred O'Hare (Marsden), a slacker who accidentally hits him with his car and decides to adopt him out of guilt. Frankly it's a shame the script is so pat, because Brand's colorful vocal work lends itself very well to animated fare such as this, even though his own act is generally inappropriate for children's eyes and ears. The real impropriety, however, comes from a script hurtling along a misguided trajectory, giving way to unsavory potty humour, such as E.B.'s ability to excrete jelly beans, setting up for the inevitable gag in which a human eats one. If the writers wanted to make Easter festivities appealing, this isn't the way to do it... The one thing the film does of interest is to strangely draw attention to the fact that people aren't freaked out by seeing E.B., yet it never dares to go further with this admittedly quite interesting, postmodern idea. While one gag is cute and funny - as E.B. pretends to be a toy while Kaley Cuoco cuddles him - the gags generally hit rock bottom by the time David Hasselhoff shows up as a Simon Cowell-type talent show judge, which naturally gives way to an absurdly forced impromptu dance number, executed with such aggressive glee that it almost works, and will probably make you laugh out of sheer incredulous embarassment. The hijinx become increasingly tiresome very quickly, however, culminating in E.B. sabotaging slacker Fred's important job interview by playing the drums with a gang of blind musicians. By the end, its already spotty focus is lost, and not even the rousing voice work of Brand, nor a blatant live action cameo by the man himself, can save things. It offers few surprises, and for your buck all you'll essentially get is a cringe-inducing dance number, lame gags and an admittedly alluring display of oversized chocolate. Avoid. Hop is released on Friday.