February 2, 2006

Movie Review: Hoodwinked

Awful trailers. All of the commercials and trailers I saw for this made it look like this loud obnoxious throwaway film that was getting dumped into theaters in hopes of making a few bucks off an unsuspecting audience looking for a post Chicken Little fix. The animation looked terrible, and it looked to be trying a little too hard to be another Shrek. Then there were the commercials that tried to distract you from the film itself by focusing on the voice talent, including Ann Hathaway and Glenn Close. It seemed like a bit of an underhanded ploy. In any case, I thought that the advertising was bad, but I am guessing you figured that out by now.

Odd way to start this brief review, but I had to get that out there. Despite those awful trailers, good word of mouth began to filter out. Perhaps those trailers were hiding a quality film. Then I talked to someone who didn't care for it at all. Now my interest was piqued. I have seen both sides of the fence, the only thing left to do was go out and see the movie. Well, I did and the result's are good. Hiding behind the obnoxiousness is a quality film.

The story is the heart of the picture and it follows the aftermath of the Little Red Riding Hood incident. You know, after the wolf attacks Red. You didn't think that was the end of the story did you? Before anything happens, the cops arrive and we are thrown into fairy tale fall out, filtered through Rashomon by way of Law & Order. It is filled with cleverness and populated with ingenuity.

The film starts with Red arriving at Granny's house and coming face to snout with the wolf who is oh so cleverly disguised as said Granny. An altercation ensues, Granny pops out of the closet, all tied up, and a woodsman carrying an ax comes crashing through the wall screaming at everything. The police arrive and hold everyone for questioning, just what, exactly, happened in this home in the woods? Something just does not feel right.

The detective in charge, a dapper frog named Flippers (voice of David Ogden Stiers), questions each of them on the events leading up to the nights festivities. Each of the alleged criminals brings a slightly different perspective to the table, but who is telling the truth? The Wolf (voice of Patrick Warburton) claims to be a good guy, Red (voice of Ann Hathaway) is trying to protect the family business and prove she isn't a little girl, the woodsman (voice of Jim Belushi) is an actor trying to be Paul Bunyan, and finally, Granny (voice of Glenn Close) is hiding a big secret about her favorite pastime. The big question is how to fit these tall tales together.

The movie is a lot of fun. The script is smart and witty, providing entertainment to both kids and adults. The characters are well defined and are a unique presence on the screen. Hoodwinked moves along at a brisk pace, just long enough to tell the story, and brief enough not to feel dragged out.

The voice work is very good, particularly in the peripheral characters. Patrick Warburton's take on the Wolf is great, slightly smarmy and sarcastic. The entire police crew is great, aside from David Ogden Stiers, the talent includes Xzibit, Chazz Palmentieri, and Anthony Anderson. Then there is the hilarious Twitchy voiced by director Cory Edwards. Every animated film needs some sort of whacky animal sidekick, and this manic squirrel fits the bill. And how could I forget Andy Dick and the disturbing bunny Boingo, what a creepy character!

At first glance the animation looks rudimentary when compared to the likes of Pixar's offerings. But this is a low budget offering, and considering that, it looks quite good, perhaps even endearing. The filmmakers took their budget and time constraints and created an animated film that evokes memories of those Rankin Bass stop motion specials, and for the most part, it works. The script is clever enough and the voice talent good enough to make you forgive and forget the animation and be sucked in by the fun on the screen.

Bottomline. Witty, clever, funny, and flat out entertaining. This was much better than I had expected or even hoped. This is one the whole family can go see and not get bored. It is the best computer animated film since The Incredibles. Don't miss out on this one.

Recommended. *** / *****


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