Every year more CG animations are hitting the release schedules. Big hitters Pixar and Dreamworks set the standard by which others might still be judged, but now that’s not stopping the smaller outfits stepping up to the plate. Can anyone take on the big money sluggers?
Cory and Todd Edwards are having a swing with the Weinstein Company’s Hoodwinked. From the first it’s clear that their film is more in the league of Valiant rather than The Incredibles. There’s no groundbreaking animation going on here, at all. In fact, having been treated by the likes of Shrek 2 and Nemo, you’d be forgiven for thinking Hoodwinked’s animators were only half done. The minimal budget obviously didn’t stretch to adding much textured detail.
That said, the deliberately bulbous, distinctly Nintendo-style graphics do carry a certain nostalgic charm that suits the story.
We all know how the Little Red Riding Hood tale ends, so this is where Hoodwinked starts. However, in this version the Wolf, Red, Granny and the supposedly heroic Woodsman get busted for disturbing the peace and are soon being grilled by the inept local police, whose rank and file includes the three little pigs, led by the irascible Chief Grizzly (yep, he’s a bear). Just as the Chief’s wrapping things up, in strolls the quite Poirot-like, very frog-like (geddit?) Nicky Flippers. Questioning everyone separately, it’s soon apparent to Flippers that there’s much more going on than meets the bug-eye, leading into a new investigative story line – who’s the mysterious Goodie Bandit stealing all the recipes for baked goodies throughout the forest?
Hoodwinked’s charm and easy appeal lies in its creating wholly new identities for the main characters, as well as some new ones, and spinning the Red Riding Hood theme with a whodunit genre style. So we have Red as an independently minded black belt teenager, a camp Woodsman cum aspiring actor, Granny with more lycra and bungee cord in the closet with her skeletons and a far more upstanding Wolf, literally and otherwise. Chipping in there’s also the motley law enforcement along with the Wolf’s twitchy chipmunk sidekick and a singing goat. There are laughs to be had with these characters playing against ‘type’ and with each one’s new version of events regularly generating some humour. In general kids seem to like the cartoony look and action, adults the clever scripting. Everyone will find Japeth the singing Goat downright hilarious.
There’s some quality voice acting from the cast. Current actress de jour Anne Hathaway gets just enough sass into Red without things turning uncomfortable, even if things turn to schmaltz later on. Glenn Close sounds like she had a boon playing Granny and James Belushi’s high-frequency, low intelligence Woodsman is fun, too. Patrick Warburton’s Wolf has a pitch perfect bass-heavy voice for his sardonic humour and B movie sleuthing and almost steals the show, if it wasn’t for Benjy Gaither’s genius at acting the Goat.
The trouble is, Hoodwinked just isn’t the all-the-family pleasing effort it wants to be. The script has many referential and amusing nods to other films (from Star Wars and The Matrix to Where Eagles Dare) for grown ups and this is a joy at times, but the bland animation can be distracting and those bloody irritating songs are almost too much to take at times. The look, feel and sound does well for youngsters, but the fast-paced script could leave some bemused rather amused. Overall, despite its convolutions, it’s an incredibly simple plot that then gets tripped up by mistimed pacing. Come the third act and denouement, things begin to drag for adults and kids alike.
Nevertheless, the Edwards have had a fair bat at things and the time spent with Red and co is diverting enough. Being released in the same week as Sony’s Open Season, though, perhaps Hoodwinked’s better suited to those rainy DVD days indoors with the family.