Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Hilarious Fairy Tale Parody Begins With Hoodwinked!

The Good: Funny, Decent mix of parody and general humor, Good story, Decent animation
The Bad: Light on character development, SHORT!
The Basics: When Little Red Ridinghood visits Granny, an altercation with the Wolf ensues and an investigation reveals a larger conspiracy in the forest, in Hoodwinked, a funny, animated film!

I cannot remember the last movie that was only PG that I both laughed at and was satisfied by. Allow me to amend that: I cannot recall the last film before Hoodwinked that was PG that I laughed and and was completely satisfied by. Some might look at it as a cheap Shrek knockoff, but Hoodwinked has what Shrek didn't for me; more than one joke. My main problem with Shrek was that it essentially sought humor from the same joke over and over, with almost all of the humor being remarkably similar reversals based on the idea that the fairy tales were a lot more edgy and relayed with broader details than the finer points of "reality."

Hoodwinked does not do that. Instead, it recasts the story of Little Red Riding Hood as a whodunit with various parts telling their take on the story as part of a criminal investigation into the theft of the recipes from all of the major bakers in the forest. The humor tends to be more universal, fresh and funny than that of the more repetitive Shrek. And on its own, there is plenty to keep finding in Hoodwinked that is funny, making it worth returning to!

Red, granddaughter of Granny, is a spunky girl who is eager to protect the bakers and sweetmakers of the forest whom she notices are all going out of business rather suddenly. Charged with protecting the recipes to Granny's bakery, Red flees into the woods to get the recipe book to safety. At Granny's house, though, she finds a poorly disguised Wolf who seems quite interested in the book. An altercation ensues, wherein Red holds her own against the Wolf, a crazed Woodsman breaks in wielding an ax and Granny is revealed to be very much alive, though she is tied up in the closet. The police arrive and while they are quick to jump to conclusions, Inspector Nicky Flippers enters to get full depositions, believing that not everything is as it seems.

What follows then are the stories as told by Red, the wolf, the woodsman and Granny. Red describes her attempts to keep all of the bakeries from closing, even as more of them are forced out of business. Dogged by the wolf, her day has been hectic and she has escaped death at several turns. The wolf, then, is given the chance to tell his story, which casts him as an investigative reporter on the case of finding out why all of the sweet shops have been shuttered. The woodsman describes his behavior as method acting gone wrong and Granny tells her story of training in extreme sports. Flippers, then, finds the common thread in the stories and together they bring the guilty party to justice!

First off, the two big strikes against this animated film are the predictability of the plot and the short duration of the movie. At eighty minutes, Hoodwinked is barely a movie and it is unfortunate that the DVD version did not restore the deleted scenes back into the movie to get it up to a respectable - feature-length - film. As well, the moment the real perpetrator enters the movie, adults will pretty instantly get who it is as it is fairly obvious to anyone watching closely. That said, the process that the story takes to unfold is generally enjoyable and Hoodwinked works as a result of that.

Hoodwinked is funny. Written by the co-directors, Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, and Tony Leech, Hoodwinked is a collection of pretty fast deliveries, strong deadpans and utterly ridiculous songs. So, for example, one of the funniest bits is Red describing how she got her nickname and its relation to the hood. Red straightforward telling the detectives that she likes red and she is not often found wearing anything other than the hooded jacket is delivered in a way that is laugh-out-loud funny. As well, the goat, who is enchanted (supposedly) so he must sing all of his dialogue, who sings a song about his various horns kills time in the movie and makes for a rather laughable sequence.

The narrative technique works fairly well to keep the story moving, even if it is a little predictable. Like most detective stories, the interrogation of various people yields a different perspective on common events and as Flippers connects the events of one story to another, the broader narrative is created. Point of view stories have been chic of late, but Hoodwinked works because it feels more like an organic story and not like it is being a slave to trends. The result is an intriguing take on a story that is treated as simple and straightforward. The new take on it, the concept that there are more perspectives to the story than the traditional interpretation makes for a decent movie. Hoodwinked works because the narrative techniques force the writers to innovate a completely different story than the traditional "Little Red Ridinghood" story and the shading and depth they come up with for the various characters - while often silly - serves a much more interesting story than the simple, oft-told fairy tale.

Character development is tough to discuss in a film like Hoodwinked, though. All of the characters are given extensive backstories, usually through straightforward exposition. They all have more depth - even if it is absurd and modern, as are the cases of the woodsman and Granny's stories - and character than the characters in the original fairy tales. However, there is a somewhat generic, assigned, joke-like quality to virtually all of the characterizations. In other words, the story is not about the characters and how they develop so much as it is about the way the characters are turned on the expectations we, the viewers have for them.

That said, Hoodwinked has a pretty impressive cast, which does seem to be the norm for such animated films of late. The all-star cast includes Anne Hathaway as Red, Glenn Close as Granny, Patrick Warburton as the wolf, and Xzibit as Chief Grizzly. The irony here is that the only other acting I have yet seen rapper Xzibit do was in The X-Files: I Want To Believe and he was cast in essentially the same role!

Nicky Flippers is voiced by one of my favorites, David Ogden Stiers and it is nice to see that Kelsey Grammar isn't getting all of the dignified voice acting roles. For all of my appreciation of Grammar and his work, Stiers has a dignity and presence in his vocal performances that is at least on par with Grammar or Patrick Stewart's and the role of the investigator suits him perfectly. Stiers opens the film with a voice over that immediately establishes both a comic and investigative tone to the movie and it works exceptionally well.

The other decent surprise for me was in the voice acting of Anne Hathaway. I still recall seeing commercials when I was younger for the television show she was on on FOX where she became the breakout character, based - largely, one supposes - on her looks. Given that this is an animated film, Hathaway's looks do not factor into her performance as Red at all. The result, is a performance one must judge entirely on the merits, not the mythos. And Hathaway presents Red with a sense of comic timing and vocal expressiveness that reinforces the idea that she is one of the premiere actresses of our time. She is funny, articulate and her acting is solid from start to finish as Red.

As for the animation, I have seem some griping about it, but I actually like it. Hoodwinked has a distinctive computer generated animation look and feel to it that is unique to this production. It is not trying to be real, nor is it trying to be a traditional cartoon as far as the animation quality goes. The result, is a visually-exciting, three-dimensional environment that brings the story to life in an entertaining and fulfilling way.

On DVD, Hoodwinked has deleted scenes and featurettes on the making of the movie and the telling (or re-telling) of the story and they are nice additions for a film that holds up surprisingly well over multiple viewings. The jokes that are most risque will easily pass over the heads of younger audiences and the animation style, complete with big-eyed bunnies and bright colors, will keep them entertained for the spectacle while older audiences enjoy the actual humor and cleverness of the movie.

For works featuring Anne Hathaway, please check out my reviews of:
Anne Hathaway For Wonder Woman!
One Day
Love And Other Drugs
Family Guy Presents: It's A Trap!
Alice In Wonderland
Valentine's Day
Twelfth Night Soundtrack
Bride Wars
Rachel Getting Married
Get Smart
The Devil Wears Prada
Brokeback Mountain
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Ella Enchanted
The Princess Diaries


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© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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