Hoodwinked! (2005)

After watching it for the umpteenth time last night I decided to devote a blog post to the underrated gem, Hoodwinked!. It’s a radical reworking of Little Red Riding Hood (and other folktales) where nothing is as it seems. Clocking in at 80 minutes, Hoodwinked! is snappy, lively, and far cleverer than its low budget would immediately suggest. Red Puckett (Anne Hathaway) becomes a suspect embroiled in a woodland animal police investigation over the attempted robbery of famous goodie recipes, a Big Bad Wolf dressed up as a granny, and a hefty lumberjack bursting through a cottage window brandishing his axe like a psycho. What ensues is a picture with a simple theme (“don’t judge a book by its cover”), a simple plot, done in a very unconventional way.

On this aforementioned umpteenth viewing I noticed many similarities to the work of Quentin Tarantino. There’s a nonlinear structure, in which each of the several suspects gives their account of the events as they perceive them, moments of spontaneous pop/rock music, and truly clever dialogue. The voice work, particularly from Patrick Warburton (The Big Bad Wolf) and Anne Hathaway, is fantastic. Even the minor roles, such as Wolf’s spastic assistant Twitchy, a squirrel photographer, are voiced perfectly. Due to its smaller budget, it is clear that the filmmakers spent much of their time focusing on the script and the acting. The result is a wonderful, very humorous world where flocks of sheep hide informants, Paul Bunyan-esque woodsmen aspire to be thespians, and Big Bad Wolves are not villains, but journalists. This is all mixed together with a real punchy sense of humor and dialogue with more wit than any animated feature I’ve seen since The LEGO Movie. When punctuated with the lively action and the ever-twisting nonlinear plot, Hoodwinked! becomes a real treat.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the animation, which is quite poor. It isn’t terrible when considering its budget and the strong cast assembled, but when stacked in comparison against its DreamWorks and Pixar computer-animation competitors it really pales. The animals, while far from perfect, are rendered sufficiently enough but the humans have a very off-putting, plastic appearance. Oddly enough, this off-beat and low-grade animation style ends up aiding the film’s quirky tone. Nonetheless, Hoodwinked! is no visual masterpiece, and those looking for arresting imagery and complex animation should look elsewhere. When I look at the film as a whole, however, it is a minor flaw. “Children’s” movies rarely feature plotting this complex mixed with humor that will have both children and adults laughing (one of my favorite moments comes before the opening credits in which The Big Bad Wolf poorly attempts to impersonate Red’s granny to extract information). With Hoodwinked! nobody is who they seem, and it’s best to go in blind. At only 80 minutes, you can spare the time, and animation aside, this overlooked gem comes highly recommended.

★★★★ out of 5

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