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"Hoodwinked": CG in Da Hood, G

by on February 3, 2006

Hoodwinked, written and directed by newcomer to the world of animation Corey Edwards, comes to us courtesy of Kanbar Animation Studio and Blue Yonder Films. Not ringing any bells? It shouldn’t; this isn’t a Pixar, nor is it a Dreamworks. It isn’t even a Blue Sky. Nope, it’s all fresh talent. Does the Hoodwinked team succeed with leaving a good first impression? Let’s find out.

Hoodwinked is a twist on the older-than-old Little Red Riding Hood story. You’ve got the girl (Anne Hathaway), The Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton, who has been way overused lately), The Granny (Glenn Close), and The Woodsman (Jim Belushi). The catch is, granny’s leading a double life as an athlete, the wolf is actually an undercover reporter trying to get the dirt on what Red’s smuggling, and somehow a maniacal bunny rabbit (Andy Dick) gets involved in a nefarious plot to steal granny’s recipes and strike it rich. In a way, this method of spinning children’s tales is reminiscent of Shrek, though it isn’t really fair to compare the two movies, because Shrek was all about how many fable references they could cram in, while Hoodwinked sticks to one story the whole time.

Clearly, Hoodwinked‘s strength lies in its complicated plot. You might be thinking, “How can an animated, PG-rated kid’s movie have a complicated plot?” Simple, the story doesn’t reveal every little detail all at once. Instead, it teases you with threads of plotlines, and it isn’t until the interrogation scene that all four plotlines (Red, The Wolf, Granny, and The Woodsman) come together. What I’m saying is, the plot ends up being much cooler than if the story was told in a conventional, linear style. You’ll be like, “Oh that’s why the avalanche from an earlier scene occurred! I thought it just came out of nowhere for no reason!”

Sadly, I didn’t really get into the characters for the most part. Red is pretty generic, The Wolf is fairly dull aside from a few smile-inducing one-liners, Nicky Flippers adds no humor and is there merely to fulfill a plot role and sound British, and the Woodsman is more annoying than funny (though I chuckled at the misunderstanding about his maniacal screaming). And Granny… well, she is a departure from the stereotype, what with being into extreme sports and all, but I didn’t find her particularly funny. The only character that stood out was the villain, Boingo- come on, a tiny rabbit who’s also an evil genius, how cool is that? I also enjoyed the squirrel sidekick, played by the film’s creator, Corey Edwards, who evokes tendencies of Scrat from Ice Age, arguably one of my favorite comic mishap characters of all time.

The movie deserves some small praise, I suppose, for not resorting to a slew of pop culture references and movie parodies like certain recent animated offerings (though it does contain groan-inducing Matrix and Lassie spoofs- ENOUGH ALREADY!). And the movie really tries hard to avoid clichéd lines, though a few slip in here and there. The problem is that most of the dialogue just isn’t that memorable, or funny for that matter. With the emphasis placed on unraveling the interwoven plot, there’s very little room for humorous moments because the film has no time for them. It’s more like, “OK, we’ve laid down Granny’s side plot, now onto the next person!” Of course, it would’ve helped if the characters were more engaging, then maybe the situations would’ve been funnier.

Now, let’s talk about animation. I’m not going to lambaste it too much because I know the creator had limited resources to work with, but even without taking that into account, the animation is a big step below pretty much every CG film since, well, Toy Story. It has that “made-for-video” feel to it; movements are rarely interconnected, resulting in very jerky and unnatural motions. The cutting in some scenes feels abrupt and arbitrary; the wolf chase scene at the beginning is a prime example of this. I read that Edwards’ goal with the animation was to replicate the stop motion feel; personally, I think it was a bad choice, since stop motion isn’t really something you should strive to imitate. I can’t even watch the Rankin-Bass Santa specials from the ’60s for that reason.

Character designs aren’t very eye-catching, either; they’re not Shark Tale bad, but the extremely simple character models (especially the humans), which look like they came from 1994, are cringe-worthy at times. Like I said, I don’t mean to be nasty, but when you’ve been spoiled by the amazing detail in recent CG films like individual head hairs or subtle details in backgrounds like rustling trees, the visuals of Hoodwinked definitely leave a lot to be desired. Of course, that’s part of the flaw of CG graphics as compared to hand-drawn animation; they age quickly, and the films that don’t keep up will look old hat. Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie had the same problem, which was also a movie that strangely hit theaters.

Music? Forgettable. The film oddly combined rock, short orchestral arrangements, and rap into one very forgettable score. This isn’t A Bug’s Life; you’ll forget every piece of music from the movie once it’s over, including the very very short musical numbers.

It may sound like I’ve mercilessly bashed the film. But I want you to know, there were some scenes in the film that I enjoyed. I liked the conversation between The Wolf and the rabbit about bringing the evil lair up to code by installing death lasers (“You may not use it today, but it doesn’t hurt to think about the future!”), the already hyper squirrel drinking coffee and literally bouncing between the trees, the Granny snowboarding sequence (great storyboarding there), and the overly obvious mask that the wolf wears while in Granny’s house.

Is it worth seeing? Well, that depends. If you’ve been disappointed with the current animation climate, Hoodwinked isn’t going to change your mind. If you’re a penny-pincher who can only afford to see spectacular movies, this movie isn’t for you. It barely reaches over an hour’s running time, and with expensive ticket prices these days, it doesn’t feel like you get your money’s worth. On the other hand, if you’ve got young kids who are relatively new to animation, or are interested in supporting fresh talent instead of the powerhouses like Pixar and Dreamworks, go see Hoodwinked. Just don’t expect The Incredibles.

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