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What does a starving raccoon (RJ) do when he is caught trying to steal food from a bear? Lie and scheme to trick a bunch of sweet, innocent forest creatures into replacing the food for him, so the bear doesn’t kill him.
Now meet Verne the tortoise and his unusual family: mother, father and triplet porcupines; father and teenage daughter opossums; a hyper squirrel and a surly skunk. As they wake from winter’s hibernation and emerge from their log home, they discover that as they have been sleeping their world has changed. Half of the forest with the nut trees and berry bushes (their main food source) are now gone, and a mysterious hedge has appeared. Enter cool and cunning RJ, who sees this as his opportunity to convince this naïve group of critters to invade the suburban homes on the other side of the shrubbery to steal the food to pay back the vicious bear. However, he decides that rather than tell them about the bear, he tells them that they are gathering the food for their own use. RJ explains that since the humans throw the food away, it isn’t actually stealing. As they begin to experience human food for the first time, the forest animals are extremely excited about the rich flavors that differ so greatly from what they are accustomed to, and quickly accumulate a stockpile from the humans. Verne’s anxiety grows out of control as he not only watches his leadership role being taken over by this fast talking raccoon, but witnesses the dangerous situations his family members are being thrown into. The president of the home owner’s association of the neighborhood that they are pillaging is not happy with the food thefts, and decides to end it once and for all… by calling in an exterminator.
Living his life all by himself, RJ doesn’t know what it is like to have a family support system. He feels that the only one he can trust is himself. Once his situation gets beyond his personal control, he knows he needs the help of teamwork. Unfortunately, he believes that the only way to get the help he needs is by way of trickery. He is a con artist. Learning to follow one’s instincts, such as Vern’s “tail tingling” can help to avoid being talked into something that you wouldn’t normally agree to. Lying has a tendency to increase problems rather than solve them, though, which RJ certainly discovers. However, he never planned on his conscience standing in the way of getting what he wanted, and granting him everything he ever needed – the family he never had. He also learns that family members don’t need to look alike to care for one another.
This film also brings up the topics of survival and nutrition. Kids can be introduced to the process of hibernation in certain animals, and how they have to prepare themselves in advance for winter. One difficulty that many species face is the fact that humans often destroy their habitats in order to make room for their own needs. These animals are forced to learn how to adapt to the changes in their environment in order to survive.
There is also an opportunity to talk about nutritional foods versus junk foods as kids watch the unknowing forest animals (twitching with a sugar rush) declare that foods that taste better must be good for you.
(If you have additional ideas on how this film can be used for educational purposes, please let us know in the comments below.)
RJ: Please, Vincent! I’m just a desperate guy trying to feed his family!
Vincent: You don’t have a family, RJ.
RJ: I meant a family of one.
RJ: Vincent, wait! I can get it all back! That’s right. If you eat me, you’d have to do it. But I can get it, all of it.
Vincent: My red wagon?
Vincent: The blue cooler?
RJ: Blue cooler. On my list! Gotta be blue?
Vincent: Yes! And I want my Spuddies. I love those things. ‘Cause with a Spuddie, enough just isn’t enough.
RJ: So true. Painfully true. And I’ll tell you what. I’m gonna get you the giant picnic pack, family-fun size.
Vincent: They have that?
RJ: I’m pretty sure.
Vincent: All right, R.J. I’m going back to sleep. When that moon is full, I’m waking up, and all my stuff had better be right back where it was.
RJ: But that’s just one week! That’s impossible for one guy!
[Vincent squeezes on RJ’s head]
RJ: A week’s perfect. I’ll get some helpers.
Vincent: Full moon, all my stuff. And don’t even think about running away, because if you do, I will hunt you down and kill you.
RJ: Please don’t think I’m prying, but I couldn’t help overhearing, and I think I can shed a little light on what this whole hedge situation is about. You see, what was once mere wilderness is now 54 acres of man-made, manicured, air-conditioned paradise. [Points at map] Except for that little-bitty speck. You are here. [All gasp] No, no, that’s a good thing. You’re hibernators, right? You gather up a bunch of food, store it away for the winter?
Hammy: Aha! We fill the log!
RJ: Really? This log? This cave-like log?
Ozzie: All the way to the top.
RJ: Let me ask ya, how long’s it take, you know, to fill the log?
Heather: Two-hundred and seventy-four days.
RJ: Ooh! Ever done it in a week?
Verne: That’s impossible.
RJ: Not if we work together. You see, you’ve got the food-gathering skills, I’ve got the know-how, and they have the food.
Heather: How much food?
RJ: Loads of food! Heaps of food! Food out the wazoo!
Verne: Well, you know, whatever kind of food comes out of a wazoo, I really don’t think we’re interested in eating.
Lou: I don’t know. The guy’s making a lot of sense to me. I think we should listen.
Penny: Yeah. I’m okay with wazoo food there.
Verne: The tail is tingling!
RJ: Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on. The what is what?
Verne: Whenever something doesn’t feel right, my tail tingles. And let me tell you something, everything you’ve said so far is driving my tail crazy.
Hammy: What is that?
RJ: That, my friend, is a magical combination of corn flour, dehydrated cheese solids, BHA, BHT, and good old MSG; a.k.a., the chip, nacho cheese flavor.
Gladys: I’m sorry Janis, did I just hear them say *rabid squirrel*?
Janis: Oh, I think they’re proabably just over reacting.
Gladys: But what if they’re not? What if we a potential pandemic on our hands, vermin running loose, spreading disease and lowering our property values?
Janis: Yeah, I have a casserole in the oven, gotta run.
Gladys: Fine, you worry about your casserole, and I’ll worry about [screaming]*the end of suburban peace and tranquility*!
RJ: [showing the other animals around the houses] They *always* got food with them. We eat to live – these guys live to eat! Let me show you what I’m talking about!
The human mouth is called a ‘piehole’, the human being is called a ‘couch potato’.
[signifies telephone] *That* is a device to summon food.
[signifies doorbell] That is one of the many voices of food.
[signifies front door] *That* is the portal for the passing of food.
[signifies delivery truck] *That* is one of the many food transportation vehicles. Humans bring the food, take the food, ship the food, they drive food, they wear the food!
[signifies grill] *That* gets the food hot!
[signifies cooler] *That* keeps the food cold!
[signifies turtle pinata] *That*… I’m not sure what that is.
[kids break the turtle piñata and Verne yells] Well, what do you know? FOOD!
[signifies table where family prays before dinner] *That* is the altar where they WORSHIP food!
[signifies advert for Seltzer] That’s what they eat when they’ve eaten TOO MUCH food!
[signifies treadmill] *That* gets rid of the guilt so they can eat MORE FOOD! FOOD! FOOD! FOOD! FOOD! FOOOOOD! So, you think they have enough?
[everybody nods] Well, they don’t. For humans, enough is *never* enough! And what do they do with the stuff they don’t eat? They put it in gleaming silver cans, just for us!
[opens the thrash cans and knocks them over] Dig in!
RJ: That is an S.U.V; Humans ride in then because they are slowly losing their ability to walk.
Penny: Jeepers, its so big!
Lou: How many humans fit in there?
RJ: Usually, one.
Vincent: So I was just on my way down here to kill you, and I stopped to watch the show, and I gotta say… that right there, is a thing of beauty. That is the most vicious, deceitful, self-serving thing I’ve ever seen. [Chuckles] Classic RJ. You take the food, and they take the fall. You keep this up, your gonna end up just like me. Having everything you ever wanted.
RJ: But I already had that.
Vincent: What, them? Who are you kidding? You said it yourself, you’re a family of one. Always will be. It’s how guys like you and me survive. So a few saps got hurt in the process. Tough. That’s life. Trust me, you don’t need them.
RJ: Actually, I do. And right now, they really need me. So I really need this!
[Takes the wagon with all the food]