'Hoodwinked' is an unusual take on the Little Red Riding Hood tale, treating the crime of a wolf breaking into a woman's house and dressing in her clothing like it were a CSI investigation. Except with this being a family film, we're left without a body; only a series of clues, four witnesses and a yet-to-be established crime. In truth, the script by Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards and Tony Leech — the trio also directed this frenzied yarn — uses the core idea of the original Brothers Grimm story and restructures it into Akira Kurosawa's 'Rashomon.' The four suspects tell their own version of interrelated events to prove their innocence, while also revealing a real criminal on the loose known as the Goody Bandit.
The animal in charge is a prim-and-proper amphibian named Det. Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers). He's clearly modeled after Nick Charles from the 'The Thin Man' film series, who was wonderfully portrayed by William Powell. It would have been cute to also see Nora at his side to solve this baffling mystery of miscreants, but he's at least accompanied by a note-taking Fox Terrier that resembles Asta, and he wears that pencil mustache with pride. He doesn't quite display the same level of detective skill as the original Nick, but he gets the job done. Meanwhile, cinephiles come to realize this isn't your average CGI-animated flick and chuckle at various film references sprinkled throughout.
In fact, the disco-dancing Flippers isn't alone in harboring secrets and being more than meets the eye in this wildly-imaginative fairytale. The wolf, who is voiced by Seinfeld alumni Patrick Warburton, fails to live up to everyone's expectation as the criminal-type or the man-eating killer. Instead, he channels Chevy Chase's Fletch as an investigative journalist also on the hunt for the Goody Bandit. In gray sweats and a Lakers jersey, this is probably the funniest of all the characters, spitting out witty one-liners and comebacks with perfect timing. He's topped off with a hilarious, overly-active squirrel that doesn't drink coffee. As a comedy mashup, filmmakers really make the best use of him to deliver the laughs.
The other three are also amusing, but they somehow feel like the real criminals in this picture — stealing much-needed screen-time away from the wolf. Still, they're necessary components to move the story forward, so we hear how Red (Anne Hathaway) is ready for more responsibility and desires adventure, typical coming-of-age details used for dramatic depth. But when she discovers a triple-G tattoo on the back of Grandma's (Glenn Close) neck, she's hurt that her dear-old granny would rather play like Vin Diesel alone than have her only grandchild tag along. Granny's wild side does bring a few smiles and maybe a chuckle or two, yet we can't help but think it's only there for the amusement of younger viewers. Not that there's anything wrong with that per se, but in a feature trying to capture a wide range of viewers, it ultimately feels like dead weight.
The big, hulking woodsman (Jim Belushi) who dreams of being an actor almost ends up being as much of a burden, if not more so. He simply isn't all that funny, and the story even makes him out to be an accidental participant. Thankfully, things pick up once the mystery starts taking shape and reveals a Bond-like criminal mastermind. The animation isn't much of a looker. As a matter of fact, it's rather elementary and strangely intentional. The majority of the jokes come from a variety of film homages, but the movie carries a lighthearted spirit that's amusing and brisk. 'Hoodwinked' is an easy throwaway animated comedy, with several good laughs strewn about. In short, the film entertains by playing a game all its own.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Vivendi Entertainment and The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment bring 'Hoodwinked' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The Region Free, BD25 disc starts with a preview before showing the usual menu selection with full-motion clips and music. The second disc is a DVD-9 with a standard-def copy of the movie as well as all the special features. The package comes with a glossy cardboard slipcover.
Arriving with a strong AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) at a resolution of 1080i/60, 'Hoodwinked' is unveiled to the world of high-def video with a rather unique look for a CGI feature.
The animation is much more simple and rudimentary when compared to the likes of the major players. This is not an altogether bad thing, as it does make the movie standout amongst the crowd. Clarity and details are still abundant throughout, giving viewers a great deal to appreciate. From the fine lines on the fur of animals to distinct characteristics in trees and the evil lair, the image is sharply defined from beginning to end.
The picture displays plenty of dazzle and vibrancy with spot-on contrast levels and cleanly rendered whites. The transfer also comes with some pleasing depth thanks to inky true blacks and excellent visibility within the shadows. The color palette is full-bodied and bold with a beautiful emphasis on the secondary hues which provide the image with a fairy-tale-like quality. The one nagging drawback is the clear presence of banding in several sequences. It's not enough to completely ruin the presentation, but it occurs often enough to distract somewhat.
All things considered, 'Hoodwinked' looks great on Blu-ray.
The animated mashup also arrives with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that keeps the mood and tone of the movie very lively.
Vocals are well-prioritized and cleanly delivered in the center of the screen. The front soundstage comes with good channel separation and a welcoming, spacious imaging. Although the system is never pushed too far with lots of action, the mid-range remains clean, stable and sharply rendered during those few moments of high activity. Low-frequency effects add some hearty weight and vigor to those same sequences, particularly the scenes with the avalanche. The surrounds are mostly subdued but not completely dead, offering a bit of mild ambience to extend the soundfield.
All in all, the lossless mix for 'Hoodwinked' is entertaining and energetic.
The same assortment of special features is made available here, but can only be accessed on the DVD disc.
Taking inspiration from other classic tales, 'Hoodwinked' is a reimagining of the legendary story as turned into a crime-scene investigation. With voice talent from Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Jim Belushi, and Andy Dick, this animated movie is an amusing, clever watch, with several hearty laughs. But at the end of the day, it's a rather forgettable film with some forgettable characters. The Blu-ray arrives with a good audio and video presentation, and it comes with a decent assortment of supplements, making this a mildly recommended package.