Living up to its namesake, 'Hoodwinked Too!' tries to pull a fast one on audiences and animation fans alike, straining to be both cutely funny and wittily clever. Unfortunately, the story, written by the same team that brought us the first movie (Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, and Tony Leech), fails to deliver. Part one introduced an amusing twist in the telling of classic folktales by reimaging Little Red Riding Hood within the 'Rashomon' plot structure. Even if the kiddies don't understand the references, it still makes for a fun watch. But the sequel reminds us that creative inspiration often comes around only once.
In the follow-up, the humor and references range from needlessly in your face and labored to imaginative slants on well-known favorites. The occasional laugh, of which there are few, often feels like a lucky accident when the following joke suddenly leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Hansel and Gretel (Bill Hader and Amy Poehler) needing rescue from the evil witch (Joan Cusack) and her 'Psycho' gingerbread house is a winning twist. But things quickly go awry, for both the rescue attempt and the movie, when Wolf (Patrick Warburton) tries one of his 'Fletch' moves and Granny (Glenn Close) breaks into 'Kill Bill' mode, resulting in her abduction. Only ten minutes in and the jokes already take a nosedive.
If you're wondering where Red, who is now voiced by a rather nonchalant Hayden Panettiere, is in all this, she's on special assignment, learning to be a skilled fighter in what looks like the same mountain neighborhood as Po of 'Kung Fu Panda.' The place is actually an odd combination of martial arts and culinary school called Sisters of the Hood, where the chef masters take strange potshots at Rachael Ray and an old lady is clobbered by a rolling pin. Wouldn't be surprised if Gordon Ramsay were part owner of the school. The Sisters are also guardians of the most powerful truffle recipe in the land. But for the purposes of actually working with a plot, it's been stolen and Granny's abduction is connected.
Once Red teams up with Wolf and Twitchy (Cory Edwards), 'Hoodwinked Too!' turns into one big pile of hot porridge — a mashup of fairytale/nursery-rhyme characters in homages to other films or caught in their own confused little universe. During Red and Wolf's investigation, they're forced to pay Boingo the Bunny (Andy Dick) a visit, who's living it up Hannibal Lecter style. What kid will actually laugh at the reference? On the other hand, the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk acting as the Mafioso club-owner and calling himself The Gian is pretty clever, bringing a short-lived smile to the grim face of this particular viewer. The recurring appearance of Japeth the Goat provides a few additional chuckles.
Filmmakers also try to insert some emotional depth to the narrative by having it play out much like a buddy-cop flick. Supposedly, Red prefers by the book procedures, yet instantly transforms into Marty McFly when the words "You fight like a girl" are uttered. Wolf, of course, is a laidback kind of canine who likes to improvise with various disguises. It does little in making the animated film any better and fails to leave audiences with any moral impact because we've seen the same storyline countless times. We already know how this is going to turn out: everybody kisses and makes up as Red and Wolf drive off into the sunset in Starsky's bright red Gran Torino with the white vector stripe. Shouldn't all buddy movies end like that?
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment brings 'Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The Region A locked, BD25 disc comes with a DVD-9, and both are housed in a nice tin spy-like suitcase with a small packet of Ferrero Rocher's chocolate sweets. At startup, viewers can enjoy skippable previews for 'Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D' and 'Rio.' Afterwards, we have the usual selection of menu options with full-motion clips and music.
'Hoodwinked Too!' rides unto Blu-ray with a first-rate 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.78:1) that will generally satisfy one's cartoon needs.
Like its predecessor, the animation is a bit more elementary than what we've become accustomed to, but it makes for a terrifically colorful high-def picture with richly saturated primaries and excellent variation in the softer hues. The overall video is vivid and full of life from start to finish with contrast levels that are right on the money and consistent. Deep, luxuriant blacks remain true in every scene with exceptional gradations in the grayscale, adding to the image's three-dimensional depth. Many sequences are set inside darkly-lit interiors with creepy, overwhelming shadows, yet visibility of minor background object was never called into question. I did catch some very slight banding, but it's so minor and negligible that it's barely worth mentioning.
The artwork doesn't quite compare to that of other studios, but it's not a cause for concern as it is a deliberate style design by the creators. Detailing is still sharply defined with precise fine lines in fur and hair. Though the picture lacks noticeably in rich, lifelike textures, Hansel and Gretel's clothing does show great distinctness in the stitching and pattern.
On the whole, the animated fairy tale sequel looks admirable in high-definition video.
For the audio, Anchor Bay Entertainment puts together a rather entertaining DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack full of several good, high-flying bits of action.
The design appears to maintain many of the silly exploits in the front, which isn't all bad. It creates a very engaging and inviting soundstage with perfectly intelligible vocals and terrifically fluid channel separation. For example, the scene when the trio jump from the beanstalk, and the dialogue moves between the three channels effortlessly. Dynamics sustain distinct clarity and sharpness during those sequences of action while the low-end provides an effective, healthy punch to the heavy stomping of giants and the few moments of explosion. Rear activity doesn't offer much in the way of immersion, but once in a while, discrete effects move into the surround speakers and nicely extend the soundfield.
In the end, 'Hoodwinked Too!' puts on a satisfying audio show for fans.
A puny assortment of supplements that can also be found in the movie's DVD counterpart.
Lacking a great deal of the charm and appeal from the first movie, 'Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil' can be a bit of a choir after a few minutes of the lame jokes. A very few clever twists are not enough to make this follow-up a crowd-pleaser and quickly becomes an embarrassing struggle at being funny, with several references that fail to even crack a smile. The Blu-ray comes with a great audio and video presentation, but a puny collection of supplements. Even if you're hankering for some animation, this faux fairy tale will miss the mark, but I imagine fans will find less to complain about.