Directed by: Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, James Belushi, David Ogden Stiers, Patrick Warburton
Enough already with "revisionist" takes on fairy tales and Shrek wannabes! This independently made CGI-animated film picked up for distribution by the Weinstein brothers doesn't even look or feel like a real movie -- in fact, it resembles nothing so much as the work of a third-year film student convinced he's done something really fresh and original.
Hoodwinked is anything but fresh or original. Re-imagining "Little Red Riding Hood" as a police procedural was done 40-odd years ago by Stan Freberg when it was called "Little Blue Riding Hood." It was fresh then -- and "Blue" is still funnier than Hoodwinked! is now. But Freberg was a brilliant satirist; Messrs. Edwards, Edwards and Leech are not. They've taken Freberg's idea and grafted on a Rashomon-like (yes, Rashomon) structure and painfully dragged it all out for 80 minutes.
The film starts out OK, if unspectacularly, but it quickly goes off in so many directions that nearly all sense of focus is lost. That wouldn't matter much if all these tangents were funny or entertaining. In fact, they're rarely more than mildly amusing and most of them feel like the padding they are, since few of the detours have all that much to do with the plot (such as it is). The whole thing is built on the idea that the Wolf (Patrick Warburton) is innocent of any wrongdoing and is in reality just a reporter who is dogging Red (Anne Hathaway) because he is, in fact, following a story. Various revelations abound, but these are never as surprising or as funny as the filmmakers think.
A few critics have applauded the film for eschewing the Shrek-esque pop-culture references -- but has it really? There may be no esoteric references to bushes shaped like Shirley Bassey, but thinking that reinventing Grandma (Glenn Close) as a jive-talking extreme-sports fanatic (seen belting back Mountain Dew) is anything but a pop-culture reference is incomprehensible. Worse, this is the sort of thing that will date the film badly in a very short space of time.
Since there's not much story -- even with the tangents -- the film also includes a number of songs. These range from the undistinguished to the downright bad, though they somehow fit in with the overall tone of the movie. And if that's not enough, the CGI animation is frankly pretty bad. It looks rudimentary and unfinished and ... yes, Hoodwinked looks like a student film.
There are a few bright spots. Police inspector Mickey Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) is actually a good creation -- and also the best-executed character technically -- but he's not given enough to do. Still, the movie brightens up whenever he appears. Similarly, the film's ending has a few nice moments -- setting aside the oh-so-lame production number that the filmmakers seem to know is oh-so-lame when they have a character mention the lousy choreography -- even if its "surprise" villain isn't much of a surprise.
Even so, Hoodwinked! is never more than OK -- and more often it's just a sophomoric exercise in smart-assdom by people who think they're the last word in postmodern cleverness. Kids may enjoy it, but most everyone else is apt to find this an incredibly long 80 minutes. Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke