Hoodwinked (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Not since Reese Witherspoon figuratively donned the red cloak in Freeway has there been a fresh take on the story of "Little Red Riding Hood." With Hoodwinked, the production team has made an attempt to change that, although the end result is more clever than it is entertaining. The picture also appears to have been made on the cheap, with some of the worst CGI animation in memory. The characters have plastic looks (kind of like that creepy Burger King guy in the TV commercials) and the backgrounds are uninteresting and one-dimensional. On more than one occasion, I thought I was watching something made for TV. When compared to today's visual standards for animated films, Hoodwinked is far below the curve.

Hoodwinked uses a Rashomon approach to deconstruct the story of Red Riding Hood (voice of Anne Hathaway), the little girl who traveled through the forest to visit her grandmother (Glenn Close), only to find the Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton) in Granny's house. Enter the Woodsman (James Belushi), just in the nick of time to save Red from becoming lunch. Here, under tough questioning from Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) and Chief Grizzly (Xzbit), the four principals tell their versions of what happened, and how it relates to the mysterious crimes of the "Goody Bandit." Red's tale is predictably close to the original. The Big Bad Wolf claims to be an undercover journalist investigating Red's possible involvement in the "Goody Bandit" crimes. Granny turns out to be an extreme sports enthusiast. And the Woodsman isn't as ax-happy as he initially seems. Eventually, the truth is revealed.

Watching the same, familiar story told multiple times can become tedious, irrespective of the variations, and that's one of Hoodwinked's problems. Despite the occasionally amusing lines and non-stop references to other fairy tales, it slips into boredom. (Those references, incidentally, aren't done as smartly or slyly as in the original Shrek.) The movie is only 80 minutes long, but it seems longer. And some of the ideas - having the Wolf be a lupine Mike Wallace and Granny be an x-sports champion - sound better on paper than they turn out in execution.

Hoodwinked contains a lot of music, most of which is an unmemorable as the visuals. We get a little of everything, including show tunes and hard rock, but nothing stands out. The voices are, in many ways, the most interesting aspects of the film. Anne Hathaway's strident tones are evident, but almost everyone else adopts a disguise. I didn't recognize Glenn Close as Granny. Patrick Warburton uses a John Wayne-type accent. And David Ogden Stiers, a veteran of vocal work, sounds nothing like he has in any of his other appearances.

Had Hoodwinked looked better, it might have been easier to forgive its shortcomings, and I'm sure children, generous by nature, will do that. But the movie has the appearance of being rushed into theaters with almost no budget. If the Weinsteins want to play with the big boys, they're going to have to come up with the money to compete. Plus, it's hard to figure out who the target audience is. A lot of the material will go over the heads of children, but there are plenty of minor action sequences that will have minimal appeal for adults. The best animated films blend such divergent elements together to create a family experience. In Hoodwinked, they are wed uneasily, making the picture an imperfect match for viewers of any age. The production contains enough positive elements to make it worth a look, but not until it reaches DVD or TV. As a theatrical offering, it disappoints.

Hoodwinked (United States, 2005)

Run Time: 1:20
U.S. Release Date: 2006-01-13
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Nothing Objectionable)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1