May 18, 2006

“Over the Hedge” 

“Over the Hedge” sent my whole family over the edge with laughter.

This animated feature, which opened May 19, follows the adventures of a greedy, self-centered raccoon named RJ (voiced by Bruce Willis), who decides to steal a cave full of food from a bear. When the bear wakes up, RJ accidentally knocks the food off the side of a cliff and into the path of a truck on the highway below. To avoid being clobbered by the bear, RJ promises to replace all the food within a week and heads into suburbia, where he hopes to round up some food fast.

Things get fun when RJ encounters a makeshift family that includes a squirrel, possums, skunks and a turtle. RJ tries to convince them that if they cross the hedge with him into the subdivision next door, they’ll find plenty of food. The family’s leader, Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling) tries to convince his group that RJ is only out for himself, but the others decide to follow the raccoon through the hedge.

Here the adventure begins. The human family that lives on the other side of the hedge hires an exterminator to get rid of the animals that are creeping into their yard. One of the best performances is by Steve Carrell, who plays Hammy, a manic squirrel whose fast voice and silly antics are hilarious.

We also loved RJ’s explanations of suburbia—even my 7-year-old got the humor in RJ’s descriptions of why humans drive cars, order pizza and put food in refrigerators. I was surprised that my 12-year-old son, who can be a little more critical of animated flicks, also loved this movie and got some of the jokes that went over his younger sisters’ heads.       In the end, all the characters learn a lot about what makes a family and trusting each other. The message is wonderful, without being preachy. This was a great family film, with nothing scary, just lots of good jokes and good fun. Liz DeCarlo

“Over the Hedge” opens May 19.

“Leaving Iowa”       "Don't make me stop this car!" and "Because I said so, that's why!" are phrases we all have heard from our parents time and time again. "Leaving Iowa," now playing at the Royal George Theatre, is an extraordinarily wonderful play that makes these words come alive.        The play revolves around a middle-aged writer from Boston who returns to his childhood home of Winterset, Iowa, to find an appropriate place to spread his father's ashes. On the journey he recalls many of the road trip vacations he took with his dad, nom and sister. The play may be hard to understand at first because it flips back and forth between the main character as a kid and then as an adult. After awhile you notice small changes, like he wears a baseball cap when he is a kid, but not when he is an adult. It is easy to catch on after a few scenes.     One of the reasons the play works so well is that it incorporates sad moments into very funny ones. Tim Clue and Spike Manton, the playwrights, are extremely talented people. There were very funny parts, along with very touching parts. The audience laughed and cried with the actors onstage. I especially liked the scenes between the brother and sister because it reminded me of my brother and me on our trips.        I loved the fact that only one  piece of scenery was used for the whole show. Also, one prop served as the backseat of the car, the table at a diner, the bench at a house and many other things. This proves that you don't necessarily have to have many props or scenery changes to have a good play.     All five cast members are exceptional, but Brian McCartney was the hit of the show. He plays more than 12 characters, from a farmer to a busboy, changing his personality and voice to fit the character. One is funnier than the next.       Before the show even begins there is a wonderful slide show of Iowa. It has many fun facts and pictures and there are many slides that say “you might be from Iowa if...”  Get there early if you want to catch this presentation.      I gave this play an A- because it was extremely well-written and all of the characters were phenomenal. My mom gives it an A because the play brought back vivid childhood memories of happy times spent vacationing with her mom and dad. She also thought the acting and writing were exceptional. I highly recommend this play to anyone who is looking for a good laugh and a reminder of what family vacations might have been like with your family. I think this play is best-suited for children 9 and older because there is some complicated humor and quick scene changes which could confuse younger kids. Allie Sakowicz, 11

“Leaving Iowa.” Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Families. $37-$42. 2 p.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Through the summer. (312) 988-9000.


At Dine, I heard the words I never expected to hear: “Wow, Mom, this meatloaf is really good.”

For our family, going out to dinner isn’t always the fun experience I want it to be. My picky eaters order something that sounds good and find out it isn’t. Then we’re stuck trying to appease hungry and unhappy kids.

But the Sunday Supper Special at Dine turned out to be much like dinner at home, except that someone else cooks and cleans up. The Sunday Supper Special comes family style—all the meatloaf, fried chicken, vegetables, potatoes, corn bread and apple dessert you can eat—so everyone found something they liked and managed to get enough to eat.

I thought the food was a little salty, but the kids loved it, even the vegetables. And I loved that they could pick and choose the foods they like and eat as much as they wanted while we passed the time chatting, just the way a family dinner ought to be. Cindy Richards

The Sunday Supper Special is available all day Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant is attached to the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 733 W. Madison St., Chicago. Free parking in the hotel lot (have your valet parking ticket validated at the restaurant). The cost is $15 per adult and $10 per kid 11 and under and senior 65 or older. Call (312) 602-2100 or visit

Kids Eat Chicago

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