[box cover]


The opening scene of Hoodwinked (2005) — an unbelievably cheap-looking animated Shrek rip-off — is familiar to anyone who grew up on that one Bugs Bunny cartoon: Red Riding Hood (voiced by Anne Hathaway) goes to Grandma's house. Grandma (Glenn Close) is tied up in the closet. Red's menaced by the Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton). A woodsman bursts through the window and starts swinging an axe. And then — in a departure it's hard to recall from the original European folk-tale — somebody calls the cops. Soon, Grandma's house is a taped-off crime scene. Chief Grizzly (Xzibit) is threatening charges of "Intent to Eat." And everyone's telling Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) a different story under interrogation — sort of The Usual Suspects meets Rashomon, only with bad puns and worse songs. And it all leads to a fateful confrontation with the mysterious "Goodie Bandit." Hoodwinked isn't a bad idea for a kid's movie, although we really don't need another smirky, pop-culture-referencing take on fairy tales. (The Shrek films, with their "hilarious" of-the-moment nods to The Matrix and the like, are aging worse than three-year-old "Daily Show" reruns.) And Warburton is pretty dryly funny as the Wolf, who turns out to be an investigative reporter modeled on Fletch, right down to the Lakers jersey and Faltermyer-esque theme music. But in every other respect, Hoodwinked is limburger pickled in castor oil. The soundtrack is packed with lousy pop songs. And, while it isn't crucial to good storytelling, the computer animation takes every shortcut in the book. The flashback structure means we keep seeing the same work from different angles, over and over, and whenever characters are asked to run or emote, they fall somewhere short of Rankin-Bass stop-motion puppets. What's more, the character design is uninspired and kind of ugly; Red, for example, looks uncannily like a 45-year-old Campbell's Soup Kid: Even worse, the jokes never, ever rise above the level of bad puns. Here are three actual dialogue exchanges from the film, and sadly they're representative:

  • "How does the fellow with the axe fit in?" "Maybe you should axe him yourself."
  • "This guy's a loon!" "Watch it, Chief — my mom's half-loon."
  • "Someone hibernated on the wrong side of the tree!"

After 80 minutes of this — particularly after 80 minutes of seeing this same story repeated four or five times — you may want to climb under the seat, roll around in used candy wrappers and gnaw off your leg. The Weinstein Company's DVD release of Hoodwinked offers a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English, Spanish). Extras include a commentary by filmmakers Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, and Tony Leech, five deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary and a "play all" feature, the behind-the-scenes spot "How To Make an Animated Film" (12 min.), a music video, and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
Mike Russell

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