The new Easter movie, “Hop,” is a far-fetched, kid-friendly, eye-poppingly colorful, modern fairytale. Since the Easter bunny has no real back story (history), Universal Pictures has made one up. Will this be the first in a long line of (totally secular) Easter movies, much like the filmography of Christmas films? Will “Hop” become an Easter classic? Time will tell.
Fred (James Marsden) is the adult slacker son of a disappointed father. E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) is the unwilling teenage heir to his official Easter Bunny father’s title and job. (He wants to be a drummer and his father doesn’t approve of his dreams.) The two cross bunny trails and wind up helping each other achieve their latent potential.
Does it work? Actually, yes. James Marsden proves himself an incredibly generous actor who invests in the role to the hilt. He really plays it up for the kids without overplaying it. Fine acting and fine voice acting for all the characters. “Hop” seamlessly holds your attention in both the animated, Willy-Wonka-like, “Easter Island” candy factory (E.B.’s world), and the real Beverly Hills, (Fred’s world).
I think we have become so used to such high quality animation that we may not realize how perfectly the animated bunny is integrated into the real-people, live-action world. James Marsden looks like he’s truly interacting with E.B. at every moment.
Any mention of “the true meaning of Easter”? Not a whit. We are told that the Easter Bunny tradition goes back “4,000 years.” However, we must remember that “Easter” takes its name from “Eastre,” the pagan goddess of Spring, and that certainly there were lots of pre-Christian rites of Spring involving bunnies and eggs and chicks and the perennial resurgence of new life on earth. But there will certainly be some backlash regarding “Hop”: a backlash against the further secularization of a now unmistakably Christian feast. To paraphrase Isaiah reprimanding King Ahaz: “Is it not enough for you to weary Christmas? Must you also weary Easter?”
At least Christmas’ giving of gifts and Santa Claus has some basis in salvation history (the Magi and St. Nicholas). The Easter Bunny mythos is thumping on very thin ground. Fantasy is a wonderful play-space for the moral imagination of both children and adults, but what happens when parents tell their children about the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Resurrected Jesus all in the same breath? Perhaps we need to find ways to connect every celebration/tradition in which we participate, secular and religious, to unchanging Reality that will grow with us and Who will go with us for the long haul.