HoodwinkedReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 01/19/06 16:51:01
“Hoodwinked!” is a collection of everything that’s gone wrong with animation lately and nothing that’s gone right. It is a strained exercise in hipness, with pop culture references and for-the-grown-up jokes piled on so high that it’s really not fun for the kids. My daughter was bored for most of the film (snapping to attention only during the action sequences), and I’d blame that on a five-year-old’s inability to get a “Fletch” parody, let alone care.Yes, dear readers, this film (whose title has an exclamation point in the opening credits but not in the closing ones - points off for carelessness) spends way too much of its time ripping off a movie only the parents in the audience would have seen, and it does it so badly that the parents are more likely to groan than chuckle. Recasting the Big Bad Wolf as an undercover investigative journalist who wears a Lakers jersey and a navy blue hoodie does nothing for the film. It’s attempted cleverness for attempted cleverness’ sake. And it’s obnoxious.
Even more obnoxious is the recasting of Red Riding Hood’s kindly old grandmother as a butt-kickin’ extreme sports superstar whose triple-G tattoo on the back of her neck implies a relation to a certain Vin Diesel movie that, once again, none of the kiddies saw. I will reluctantly admit that my daughter really enjoyed the scene where Granny takes down a group of baddies during an Extreme Skiing competition (she enjoyed it because it was loud and shiny, a welcome reprieve from the dull, unfunny bits that came before). I, on the other hand, kept thinking of the “Poochie” episode of “The Simpsons;” nine times out of ten, if you see “extreme sports” in a cartoon, it’s the result of adults trying way too hard to relate to the kids, hoping nobody will notice that they don’t have a clue.
The story itself had potential. We kick off with the finale of the Red Riding Hood story, with Red, the Wolf, Granny, and the Woodsman all in a frenzy. In come the cops, and as the characters tell their sides of the story, we realize there’s more going on that what it seems. Could’ve been cute, a “Rashomon For Kids!,” with some kicky “Fractured Fairy Tales” humor and maybe a song or two thrown in for Oscar consideration. But the screenplay (written by co-directors Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, and Tony Leech) wants to be “Shrek” so desperately that it collapses under the weight of its copycat intentions. Even at their weakest, the “Shrek” films had a knack for comic timing that helped push the jokes without wearing them out. “Hoodwinked!” has no such knack, and instead it bungles from half-cooked idea to half-cooked idea, not stopping to think if the jokey references are actually worth it.
As if that were not enough, we also get bombarded with hideously unfunny ideas like the one that has the brave Woodsman be a bumbling German dimwit who sells schnitzel out of a truck and who dreams of becoming an actor. I can see the filmmakers now, sitting in their office, giggling at full volume over just how hilarious the cry of “Holy Schnitzel!!” is. Why, they think it’s so funny that they throw it into the script multiple times. This, sadly, is as clever as the film can get.
Worse, the CGI animation is almost entirely unwatchable. It’s tempting to blame the budget, but then one remembers “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” a film created out of a guy’s garage; that one wasn’t the sharpest looking film around, but the witty writing and bouncy glee found within allowed us to forgive any visual faults (in fact, the cheap look eventually worked in that film’s favor). “Hoodwinked!” similarly lacks the visual sheen of a Pixar production - in fact, it looks like somebody’s art school project - but this time there’s no charm here to help make up for it. A few random shots look pretty good, but overall, this film is ugly, shoddy, even a smidge disturbing (the bug-eyed Red just looks weird).
It’s a shame to see such valuable voice talent as Patrick Warburton and David Ogden Stiers go to such waste. Both do what they can to make their roles (the Wolf and a frog detective, respectively) passable, but ultimately, neither can overcome the horrible scripting. The same is true for Glenn Close (as Granny), Jim Belushi (the idiotic Woodsman), or Andy Dick (the obnoxious Boingo the bunny rabbit). As for Anne Hathaway as Red, well, she’s so bland here that I thought she was Kirsten Dunst; any middle-range young starlet could’ve filled her shoes and the film wouldn’t have skipped a beat.I would have hoped that the sheer badness of this film would have served as a warning sign to Hollywood cartoonists that the hipster train has run out of steam - but no. It’s just been announced that a “Hoodwinked 2” is already in the works. I’ll assume that the filmmakers will have learned nothing from their mistakes here, and the sequel will be bloated with pop references that the kids won’t get and the parents won’t find the least bit amusing. But where will they put the exclamation point?
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