|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 02 May 2006|
Crime Scene: Grandma’s House. Suspects: Little Girl In A Red Hood. A Wolf. A Woodsman. And Grandma. All of them look suspicious and it’s not certain exactly what is going on. But goodies have been disappearing all over the forest and someone has to ferret out the greedy mastermind behind it all. “Hoodwinked” is a fractured fairy tale of the best kind, taking something old and turning it incredibly new again.
Way out in the Woods, after an all-too-familiar beginning, cops surround Grandma’s House, responding to a call that a crime is being committed. Total confusion reigns at the scene. Red Riding Hood (voice of Anne Hathaway) accuses the Wolf (Patrick Warburton) of wanting to eat her. The Woodsman (James Belushi) has leaped through the window, but no one knows why. And Grandma (Glenn Close) flips out of the closet, all tied up. Thank goodness urbane investigator Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) is on the case. If anyone can untangle the twisted skeins of crime, it’s Nicky Flippers.
“Hoodwinked” started life very much as a grassroots effort, a pooling together of people and resources who wanted to make an animated movie. In the beginning, as producer Sue Bea Montgomery mentions in the “How To Make An Animated Film” feature, they started with $5000 and bought two computers to start doing animation. From there, Kanbar Animation Studios was born. “Hoodwinked” is their first effort, and with the success of the film, they’re sure to be a growing concern. Brothers Cory and Todd Edwards wrote the script. Cory went on to direct the feature and contribute voice work. Rahul Deshprabh, one of the visual effects team, has done work on “Driven”, “The Day After Tomorrow” and “I, Robot”, with work on “Superman Returns” still yet to come.
The color palette used in “Hoodwinked” is bright and filled with color. Every frame is filled with action and intriguing background. There’s literally never a dull moment in the whole film, even the ending, which feels a little rushed and too simple. Although the movie looks great on HDTV and LCD HDTV, it looks extremely sharp and clean, with even more colors, on a CRT computer monitor. The shading and diffusion of colors come out even more on a PC. The audio portion of the film is geared for the surround sound system. The voices, music and sound effects are separated and layered in, and the subwoofer stays busy keeping up and getting a full work out.
After the police lock down the suspects, Nicky Flippers begins his interviews. Each of the four suspects has his or her story to tell. Even though on the surface it seems like the story is being told again and again and again, the layering from the viewpoints of the individuals involved actually changes the story each and every time, deepening and enriching the tale. “Rashomon” as a fairy tale.
The introduction of the characters is filled with sarcastic comments between Little Red Riding Hood and Nicky Flippers. Then the tale segues into Red’s story of how everything came to pass. In short order, after an upbeat song filled with yearning and Disney-esque nature and animals, Red reveals that all the goodie shops in the forest are going out of business, all victimized by some mysterious Goodie Bandit. Anne Hathaway brings an awesome sense of the character in her treatment of Red, at once naïve and jaded. Red calls her Grandma, who has the best and most special recipes in the whole forest, but Grandma has no idea of what to do.
Finding her Grandma’s goodie shop broken into, Red takes her Grandma’s recipe book and decides to go calling on Grandma. While crossing the forest on a cable car, Red falls out into the forest below and encounters the Wolf and his squirrel photographer companion. The viewer should pay attention to each of these encounters, looking at them carefully, because each of them is going to be twisted. Odd things that happen (like the squirrel falling on his butt and suddenly flashing!) get explained while other questions are raised.
After escaping the Wolf, Red ends up at a lonesome mountain cabin where Japeth the goat (Benjy Gaither) spends his days. Japeth was cursed 37 years ago to sing everything he says, and he steals the show during the sequence he’s in while showing Red the way to Grandma’s house. While seemingly doomed, freefalling from a mine cart track high in the air, Red gets an inexplicable encounter with her Grandma that saves her life. Then she arrives at Grandma’s house and the story comes around in a complete loop.
Patrick Warburton (“The Tick”) plays the Wolf to the hilt. The Wolf is actually an undercover reporter hot on the trail of the Goodie Bandit and looking for the story of his career. The squirrel is his photographer and the voice is provided by Cory Edwards, creating a character that kids love as much as Japeth the Goat
The Wolf goes through his timeline, explaining his chance encounter with Little Red Riding Hood in a totally different manner, claiming that he’d figured out Grandma Puckett and Red were in cahoots together putting the other goodie shops out of business. The Wolf comes across very much as an undercover reporter who will do anything to get the story. Patrick Warburton plays the Wolf well, giving him a personality that is at once driven, cautious, and dripping with sarcasm. The Wolf is nobody’s fool.
The Woodsman is a different story altogether. He’s an actor. Well, mostly a traveling schnitzel vendor who has aspirations of doing commercials. Jim Belushi’s take on the Woodsman leaves the audience with the impression of a big, dumb and slight neurotic oaf with good intentions.
Grandma is the character that plays opposite to type. She isn’t just the little old lady who lives down the lane and bakes cookies to keep the Muffin Man on his toes. The storytellers took some major riffs from “xXx,” , placing Grandma in the middle of several extreme sports and dodging enemies at the same time.
All four of these stories ultimately dovetail and bring the action back to the cottage deep within the Woods. Nicky Flippers figures out what’s going on, unravels every clue and the chase to get the villain begins in the final section of the movie. By that time, most of the audience, including the kids, will have figured out the true identity of the person responsible for the goodie thefts.
The special features on the disc are a little lean, but the interviews given during the “How To Make An Animated Film” are great. Sue Bea Montgomery has an open honesty about her that is a delight, and the session gives a lot of would-be moviemakers hope that they too can be successful. The music video is fun and upbeat. Watching the live people who are working in the studio is simply amazing because each one of them carries a vitality and enthusiasm that’s real. These are people who are doing what they truly love. That love really shows in the commentary they provide on the film, giving viewers a chance to learn more about how “Hoodwinked” was born and the pitfalls and successes they went through as they pulled the story and the finished product together.
“Hoodwinked” is a good DVD to get for family nights. Like “Shrek”, “Hoodwinked” delivers a viewing pleasure for children and adults, working on a dual-track to reach both audiences at the same time. Both adults and children are going to be laughing at the same things much of the time. Japeth the Goat’s sequence is an absolute, hands-down winning performance. This movie deserves to be added to the family collection as well as anyone interested in collected good animated movies.