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Review: Hopper and the Hamster of Darkness – Hopper et le hamster des ténèbres (2022)

Hopper and the Hamster of Darkness – Hopper et le hamster des ténèbres (2022)

Directed by: Ben Stassen, Benjamin Mousquet | 92 minutes | animation, adventure, family | Dutch voice cast: Buddy Vedder, Elise Boers

Hare brothers Peter and Lapin are two adventurers who are looking for hidden treasures à la Indiana Jones. The moment ‘Hopper and the Hamster of Darkness’ begins, they are about to find the legendary relic from the title, but the clever Peter realizes that something is wrong faster than his haughty brother. They narrowly escape death, but before they return home with their hare feet hanging down, they discover a baby in a boat. It is a tenderloin with chicken legs. Completely endeared, Peter decides to take the orphan with him and raise it. He names the child Hopper (Chickenhare in the English version, which translates as Kiphaas).

Hopper grows up to be the apple of his eye, who has since become king (to the horror of his jealous brother). Inspired by the adventure stories of King Peter, Hopper also wants to become an adventurer. But although Peter has already fully accepted his adoptive son and sees his unique qualities as a plus, Hopper has more trouble with that himself. He hides his feathered head under a hat or cap and only seems to feel really comfortable when he puts on hare-foot boots, making him look more hare than chicken. Hopper dreams of joining the Royal Adventurers’ Union so that he can follow in the footsteps of his father – still a popular adventurer. However, when he thinks he is ready for the obligatory obstacle race, he makes blunder after blunder. That is not only disastrous for his self-confidence, he can also write the membership on his stomach.

Of course, Hopper gets a chance to prove himself. With his loyal, but equally sarcastic, servant Abe, a tortoise, he sets out in search of the hamster of darkness. This is to prevent his evil uncle Lapin from getting his hands on it first. After an earlier failed coup, he ended up in prison, but due to an error of judgment by Hopper – in a scene with a big wink to ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ – Lapin manages to escape. Not long after, Hopper and Abe get a tough girlfriend, the skunk Meg, who has an unsurprising, but useful secret weapon. The three must overcome countless obstacles to find the scepter before the power-hungry Lapin does.

The characters in ‘Hopper and the Hamster of Darkness’ are based on a graphic novel by Chris Grine, but the screenplay does not follow the comic. Visually you hardly see any similarities. This animation film by Sony Pictures Animation in collaboration with the Belgian animation studio nWave (known for ‘Bigfoot Family’ (2020) and ‘Sammy’s adventures: The secret passage’ (2010)) has a long preparation time (Sony already bought the rights in 2011 ). But the film can therefore almost compete with major Hollywood productions. It’s obviously not on the level of Disney, Pixar or Illumination, but you can tell they’ve made great strides since the first movie “Fly Me to the Moon” in 2007. Of course that also depends on the budget and the improving technique, but ‘Hopper and the Hamster of Darkness’ is an explosion of color and fantasy. The characters are charming and full of details, and so is the environment. The humor is aimed at both the youngest viewer and the adult watching, who will easily pick up references to other films. Where the film falls short again compared to that of the better-known animation studios is the emotional depth and originality. It is true that a mix of a chicken and a hare is unique, but the accompanying feelings (lack of self-confidence and acceptance, wanting to belong) are not. The growth that Hopper is going through is therefore predictable and although the (young) viewer will sympathize with the endearing figure, the character does not make a lasting impression. However, that does not have to be an obstacle to enjoy this funny adventure.

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