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Movie Review : Hoodwinked

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There is trouble in the hood. Part Usual Suspects, a hint of CSI, some film noir elements, plus multiple servings of extreme action fare, all based in a Shrek-like cartoon environment set in Little Red Riding Hood’s universe and you get Hoodwinked.

Right from the beginning you feel that the budget on this caper (caper, hood, get it?) wasn’t what it should have been but when the cake is good, then the lack of icing will be irrelevant. Take Kaena: The Prophecy for example. A CG movie made from low cost off-the-shelf game designing software and they turned out a very good product with a killer story. It also works for Hoodwinked.

The story has multiple layers, one for kids, another for adults and an added layer of social commentary — it’s all in there. Oddly enough, in a theatre packed with kids – there was a whole birthday party in the theatre – most of the laughs came from adults. The adult subtext was simply inspired.

This story revolves around the tale of Little Red Riding Hood’s attempt to save her grandmother’s lucrative goodies business. All the other goodies stores have been closed down by an evil-doer’s theft of their recipes. The whole forest is driven out of business. When circumstances, bring the wolf, Granny, Red, and Paul Bunyan in a room where a crime is committed, it’s up to an inspector to solve the mystery of the recipe thefts.

This is done in a succession of interrogations combined with flashbacks and how all the stories they tell complexly intertwine themselves perfectly into a whole. This is where all the fun lies. And fun it is, not to mention hilarious. Finally the culprit is found and it ends in a battle to save the forest. I’m not going to give more details, because this being a mystery film disguised as kid-flick, it would spoil the fun experience that is Hoodwinked.

But since we are in CG-land with cute animals, the jokes are unceasing, the homages, the plays on popular sayings (See “Wolf in sheep’s clothing”), all the hooks (the cops are mostly played pigs), pop-culture references and one liners leave you madly laughing. I wanted to see it again; right after the credits came on.

Like I mentioned earlier, the budget seems to be trim, but they gave it everything they had anyway. There are so many voice talents; the luscious Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, James Belushi and many more doing each singular and original voice-overs for equally singular and original characters. The only voice missing would have been James Woods. I just love it when he does voice-overs. The score is brilliant, using pop, rock and hip hop, and it’s always the perfect piece of music that fits best with the scene. The virtual camera work, reminded me of CSI at times, James Cameron’s blue-saturated night scenes at others, and also some Indiana Jones-style camera panning. The complex meshing of all the stories into one and keeping it funny at the same time must have been quite a task and they did this with genius.

The kid-flick moments are very much present. It’ll leave your kids wanting more and you’ll have a hard time restraining their giddiness during the viewing. Then there’s a lot of times where the humour is adult, not porn adult, but the kind of humour too complex for children to understand but that will leave adults holding their stomachs during the laughing fits.

And then there’s the socio-political humour that doesn’t make you laugh out loud but gives you those “Hmmm…” moments of thought. The reference, made in this movie, to Wal-Mart’s massive greed killing off small-town America and putting hard-working people out of business is more than obvious to anyone who’s keeping up in the news. But the movie never preaches to the audience either; this concept is left in the background, but present enough to make you ponder.

This is a must see animation movie. I give it a 4 outta 5. And with the setup at the end opening the story line for sequels, I hope they come fast. I want more.

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