I had the chance to see an advanced screening of Over the Hedge today (but didn't make it to the Stop Motion Primer unfortunately). I was told it wasn't a finished version of the film (there were still some scenes with non-rendered animation tests), so the press was asked not to review it because it was only a workprint. But that doesn't stop me from giving my impressions of it today.
First off, a short film 'Final Flight', directed by Sheridan Grad Cameron Hood and Kyle Jefferson preceded the screening of Over the Hedge. The plot is essentially a working class businessman waiting at a bus-station who is approached by a baby bird and consequently feels obligated to teach it to learn how to fly. My only impression that stayed consistent throughout the film is that it was painstakingly heartfelt, to the point where it felt overdone. I really like the concept for the film, but the execution could have been much better, in my opinion.
Onto the movie - The film starts out with RJ, a racoon, attempting to gather junk food for himself until he decides to steal some from a bear. Upon being caught, he is forced to gather the same amount of food that he stole in one week or else he will risk his demise. Cut to him finding a pack of misfits (i.e. family) comprising of a turtle, some skunks, porcupines, and a squirrel who spend the year gathering food so that they can hibernate through the winter. The plot turns so that RJ uses this gatherer-centric 'family' to suit his needs. The plot literally plays out exactly like one would estimate from there.
This is my main problem with the movie - entirely predictable once it's clear what RJ is to do. While I particularly like RJ as a character both in design and animation, as well as the comic-relief squirrel (which in my opinion was done with real charm), I couldn't help but find the movie very typical. The lack of pop-culture gags and a true attempt to create an original story with a strong message is definetly a good step for Dreamworks, and I would definetly bring a child to see the movie (who I think would enjoy it immensly), but I doubt I'd seek out the movie again for a second viewing.
Probably a 3 out of 5? Ratings are cheesy...