In the woods, something sinister creeps. If it isn't the wolf (and he claims it is not), then who’s stealing the recipes and putting all the goodie-makers out of business? The Muffin Man has closed up shop, Peter Rabbit and his family are moving on, and Red Riding Hood is worried.
This cute movie is a worthwhile take on the Red Riding Hood myth, examining the "scene of the crime" at Grandma's house with all the panoply of police, CSI, and a Nick Charles-like private eye with a talent for getting to the bottom of all the alibis. First there's Red herself, the wide-eyed innocent (voiced by Anne Hathaway). Or is she innocent? In a forest terrified by the serial cereal bandit, where no one's cookies are safe, is it naïveté that leads her into the woods — or cunning?
Then there's the wolf (voice of Patrick Warburton, square-jawed as The Tick and The Emperor's New Groove Kronk). Is he really slinking around the woods, slavering over Red's goodies and her Grandma's dry thighs? He makes a pretty solid case for himself as a crime reporter, suspicious of Grannie and her delivery-girl, Red, just trying to get the story. When he's accused of the crime, he is quick to demur, "Ah, the wolf did it. Talk about profiling."
In the original story, the woodsman is almost an afterthought. In this tale, he is a fully realized suspect, arriving in shards of glass, screaming, and flailing his axe just in time to rescue Red from the wolf's threat to "take out you and your Grannie too!" Jim Belushi's voice is bland, Austrian, and western by turns as the hapless lederhosen-clad actor tries to find his "inner woodsman" while he practices for an audition. His skipping commercial for schnitzel-on-a-stick is worth the price of the DVD all by itself.
The final party in the lineup is Grandma herself (Glenn Close's voice). She has been acting suspiciously, hiding from Red and leaving her precious family recipe book in Red's cabin. And why does she have a tattoo on the back of her neck?
In this tale, the police are (you should pardon me) pigs, and the Chief (a bear, voice of Xhibit) has to watch them lest they gobble the evidence. A singing goat is another high point, a sort of running gag through the second half of the film. David Ogden Stiers gives voice to Nicky Flippers, the private eye, but there isn't a hint of Major Winchester or even Cogsworth about this dapper frog.
This film came out last year, but there must have been something in the Hollywood air about hyperactive squirrels and caffeine. Cory Edwards at double-speed is the voice of Twitchy, the wolf's assistant, in a turn reprised this year by Steve Carell as Hammy in Over the Hedge.
Now that this DVD is out in the grocery stores, it's available at under $10, and it's great summer fun at that price, too. Make some muffins, bake some cookies, put some schnitzel on a stick, and enjoy it together. It's delicious!