Brightly colored and awfully busy, the new computer-generated comedy "Hoodwinked" has the finely tuned packaging of a movie made to please a focus group, rather than a living, breathing audience.
Cory Edwards' oddball directorial debut sets itself up as a twist on Little Red Riding Hood, with the twist that the story is told from the differing viewpoints of Red (Anne Hathaway), the Wolf (Patrick Warburton), Granny (Glenn Close) and the Woodsman (Jim Belushi), while the local cops try to figure out what really went down.
That's a pretty clever idea, and Edwards and co-directors Todd Edwards and Tony Leech seem poised to have fun with it, adopting a different style for each story: Red's version unfolds in the classical Disney style, complete with an I-want song; the Wolf's tale adopts the format of a "Fletch" undercover-journalist comedy, and so on.
But after a few minutes, it becomes clear that there isn't much to "Hoodwinked" beyond its concept. Not too much in the way of jokes or story, anyhow. It's an assembly of previously proven ideas -- a fairy-tale theme lifted from "Shrek," a funny squirrel borrowed from "Ice Age," a dollop of extreme-sports action (performed by an old person, for extra wackiness) from
the "xXx" movies, and an ending cribbed from every James Bond movie since "Goldfinger." The multiple-viewpoints gimmick is presumably to keep the critics interested.
So instead of setting its references and parodies in an original context with interesting characters -- which was the real triumph of the "Shrek" films -- "Hoodwinked" feels more like an assortment of calculated appeal points that lacks any internal momentum, or indeed any reason to exist. Even the voice casting is calculated, following the Weinsteins' habit of giving walk-on roles to comedians and hip-hop artists, in the hopes of attracting their fans to an unlikely vehicle.
Not that I wouldn't welcome the casting of Anthony Anderson and Xzibit in a kid's movie, if either of them was given anything to do; here, it just feels like they were passing by the office when the movie went into production.
Genius Products' enhanced-widescreen DVD offers the standard extras: Audio commentary by director Edwards, accompanied by his co-writers and directors Todd Edwards and Tony Leech, a making-of featurette that plays up the movie's no-budget origins, a pretty shabbily rendered music video for the closing song "Critters Have Feelings" and and five deleted scenes ... one of which uses the original voice track, with the Wolf speaking in a perfect Chevy Chase impression to complement his Fletch wardrobe. Nothing against Patrick Warburton, but it plays a lot funnier this way.
STUDIO: Genius Products
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2006
TIME: 81 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: French audio dub; English and Spanish subtitles; audio commentary; deleted scenes; production featurette; music video.
INTERNET SITE: hoodwinkedthemovie.com
Granny and the Wolf in 'Hoodwinked'