The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hoodwinked

This is another in a long line of computer animated features designed to give both kids and adults something to keep them occupied for 80 minutes. Like "Chicken Little," it starts from the premise of a simple fairy tale and expands the story. Unlike Chicken Little, Hoodwinked stays within the approximate boundaries of the Little Red Riding Hood story, not venturing into alien invasions or morality tales of familial trust (well... not too much).

In this 2005 film (produced completely independently from Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks! I know... I didn't think it was possible either!) Little Red Riding Hood is a bicycle delivery girl for her grandma's baked goodies business. It seems that the woodland critters love sweets and that baking cakes and muffins is the major economic activity for budding entrepreneurs in that area.

When the fairy tale gets to the stage where Red, Grandma, the Wolf, and the Woodsman are all in the house -- right before anybody gets killed or eaten -- we stop the events and the police show up to conduct an investigation. In walks super sleuth Nick Flippers (an obvious amphibian analog to Nick Charles from the Thin Man movies) and starts interviewing each participant. This sets the movie up for an entertaining "Rashomon" homage (or more recently, "Hero") as each person tells the story from their perspective and we learn that things are not always as they first appear.

On the positive side, the script is sharp and witty. It moves along at a brisk pace, choosing to keep momentum rather than wait for audience reaction after each laugh line. The voice talents are quite good, especially Patrick Warburton as the Wolf. There are lots of movie references, but for the most part they are subtle and an added treat rather than the justification for a scene (the exception is a long reference to "xXx"). Some of the scenery animation is very good and the "camerawork" is not choppy and overly frenetic, as it was in Chicken Little.

On the negative side, the character animation is creepy. All the faces and bodies are blocky and abnormal. The backgrounds and sets are very detailed and realistic, so I assume this was a conscious choice. But it didn't work for me. The central character of Red is particularly weird. Then there are the abominable musical numbers. I don't know why animated filmmakers have decided their films have to be musicals, but if they don't have the right talent available they should cut the singing. The movie pretty much stops dead each time a character sings one of the instantly forgettable songs.

Still, I laughed and enjoyed the story. The positives outweigh the negatives and I'm guessing that kids down to a very young age will enjoy the film (although they may get a little lost with the retellings and alternate looks at the same scene from different perspectives).

Do play "spot the movie reference." I found Mission Impossible, xXx, Wizard of Oz, The Thin Man, White Heat, The Matrix, and Fletch. There are others. Probably the most obscure is a reference to the writers'/directors' earlier movie, "Chillicothe." I'll give you that one. In that movie, Travis says, "Three words: Happy... Endings... Suck." So of course at the end of Hoodwinked, Red says "I love happy endings!"

Suitable for all ages.

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