April 1, 2011


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.

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  1. Nice points, Sr. helena. The ads have been playing ad nauseum, but nice to know it at least has quality fantasy :)

  2. STEVEN D. GREYDANUS: ‎"However, we must remember that “Easter” takes its name from “Eastre,” the pagan goddess of Spring"

    Possibly, though this is questionable -- and in any case it's only in English and German. In most languages the feast of the Resurrection ta...kes its name from the Passover. Eastern Christians dye eggs for Pascha. It's no comfort to them that Western Christians use a possibly pagan-derived name for the holy day.

    "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"

    I don't know about this. For Christians, eggs are an Easter/Paschal thing because Christians historically fasted from eggs during Lent. I don't know what sort of rituals would have existed with eggs prior to the Lenten fast.

    "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."

    True, but conversely, Christmas has a well-established civil, commercial and cultural dimension as part of a "holiday season" that runs from Thanksgiving to New Year's. It is widely observed by people with no faith, in some cases even by secular Jews. Non-religious Christmas tales from "A Christmas Carol" to IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE are well-established part of the culture of Christmas.

    Easter, by contrast, retains much more of a religious purity. Whatever basis the Germanic name may have, today in English the word "Easter" means only the resurrection of Christ, and the Easter bunny is an ambiguous but thoroughly subordinate part of the holiest Christian day. An Easter bunny story that not only ignores the true meaning of Easter but actually goes out of its way to distance the Easter tradition from the resurrection of Christ is utterly unacceptable to this parent and movie fan.

    SR. HELENA BURNS: Dear Steven, thanks for your comments. If I were a parent (I should write a book, eh? "If I Were a Parent..."), if I let my kids see "Hop," I would make sure they knew that it's pure nonsense. Why might I not let them see it? In order not to distract them from the reality of Lent/Easter.

    If I would let my kids read/see "Harry Potter," I would make sure they knew witchcraft/black magic is REAL and is never to be dabbled in, even for "good" purposes. I believe in the Media Literacy Education approach in general, and exposing ...kids to certain things (with care and direction) in order--at times--to de-fang the hype, novelty, fascination. But I would never tell my children there is a Tooth Fairy or monsters, etc., because I would never want "believe in this nonsense" to come out of the same lips (mine) that tell them of God and all His real mysteries. I would connect Santa Claus with St. Nicholas, but not tell them that he drives a sleigh and comes down the chimney, etc., etc.

    Plato said: "Whoever tells the stories rules the world." I say: "Whoever INTERPRETS the stories rules the world."

  3. STEVEN GREYDANUS: Sr. Helena, I don't know if you're familiar with my work at www.decentfilms.com ... FWIW, I'm a big advocate of teaching kids to be media literate. I also believe that images have power, and that a parent's ability to influence how children pro...cess images, particularly with younger children, is limited. Sometimes the most effective way we can teach our children is by being selective.

    I'm glad you found something worthwhile in HOP, but I can't say the trailer has inspired me or any of my kids to want to see it, and I'm not surprised that the critics I like all took a very dim view of the film. If my kids WERE interested in seeing it, my impulse would be to say, "Sorry, that movie is lame and I don't like the way it treats Easter. Let's watch THE MIRACLE MAKER on DVD."

    FWIW, I have no problem with stories about Santa Claus, or for that matter the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, but I agree with you that parents shouldn't try to trick their children. We read 'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS in my household, but we don't put out milk and cookies for Santa, and on Christmas morning all the presents are clearly identified as from Mama and Papa, Aunt This and Uncle That, and so on.

    In our family there was never any question about the Santa myth because our eldest was always extremely literal-minded and concerned with the truth, and the first time she heard about Santa she fixed me with a gaze of steel and said, "Papa, is Santa real?" And she really wanted to know. And so of course I told her the truth.

    She was so literal-minded and honest that it was a quandary for her when grown-ups would ask "Are you looking forward to Santa coming?" or "What did Santa bring you?" She honestly didn't know how to answer. Eventually I told her, "Just think of it as a metaphor. The grown-ups are really asking you if you're looking forward to Christmas and what presents you got." Then she could deal with it.

    SR. HELENA BURNS: Hi Steven! Yes--very familiar with your work! Saw your "30 sec reviews" and I subscribe to Catholic World Report. I LOVED your take on the Twilight series. I agree with everything you said above (and I love to hear real stories of how pare...nts do media literacy at home!) I totally agree that media literacy can also mean NOT seeing things. I was assigned "Hop" to review by my editor and had no intention of seeing it on my own or recommending it (based on the trailer)--again: nonsense, and let's focus on Jesus! My friend made me tell her 9 yr old there was no Santa. Bad experience.

    Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, had some early media literacy ideas about movies:
    (for parents and teachers, regarding children): Choose, Apportion, Accompany (watch with) and Correct (false impressions)