Thursday, May 25, 2006

MOVIES: Hoodwinked

I've been laying low on the blog this week. Thought I'd better put up something before we hit the weekend. So, a quick movie review.

I don't know what I was expecting when I rented Hoodwinked, but even those low-to-non-existent expectations were not met. This is the worst fairy tale/Rashomon-inspired computer-animated film I've ever seen. And I mean that.

I guess this is one of the first films released by The Weinstein Company (now that the Weinstein bros. are done at Miramax), and it definitely looks like a cartoon released by people who don't know how to make cartoons. The animation is stiff and jerky, the lip-synching of the voicework to the animated characters is spotty at best -- the whole thing feels very much like it was thrown together in a rush because the Weinsteins said, "Hey, you know all those CGI movies that are so popular these days? We should do one of those. RIGHT NOW!!" Have you ever watched the extra features on the DVD of a good computer-animated film? You know how it shows the many layers that have to be compiled together to get the final results? First there's the geometric framework, then colors, then textures, then lighting, etc., etc., etc. And just the lighting, for example, can take up four or five layers on its own. Hoodwinked looks like the animators left out about half of those layers.

The movie opens with Little Red Riding Hood, her Granny, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Woodsman caught up in what appears to be the traditional finale of the Riding Hood fairy tale, when the cops arrest them all for a domestic disturbance. That's kind of clever, actually, but by this point, about three minutes in, I was already hating the animation. Anyway, the cops bring in frog detective Nicky Flippers to interrogate them, and they all have a different story to tell, all of which stray far from the original fairy tale. All their stories involve a plot to steal the recipes from the various bakers of goodies in the forest, forcing them to close shop, and all of them are suspects in the crime.

Like I said, it's kind of a clever premise, but the execution is handled tremendously poorly. I've mentioned the animation, but the writing leaves something to be desired as well. Any humor to be found here comes primarily from the voicework. Patrick Warburton, whom I believe I've recently said is always awesome, is again awesome here as the Wolf. Great, distinctive voice on this guy, and, as opposed to some of the other actors here, he's got tons of voicework experience (Family Guy, The Venture Bros., Kim Possible, and The Emperor's New Groove, just to name a few) and knows how to bring out the comedy in the material. Andy Dick is also very good as malevolent bunny Boingo, as is David Ogden Stiers as Nicky, and, surprisingly, Xzibit as Chief Grizzly. Some of the other big names involved don't really work. Jim Belushi, doing a goofy accent as the Woodsman, is weak. Anne Hathaway as Riding Hood brings nothing special to the role. And Glenn Close as Granny -- why? Any other actress could be doing the little old lady voice here. I guess the Weinsteins just wanted the box office power Glenn Close holds over the tweener audience.

There are a few inspired bits and pieces here and there -- Nicky Flippers is an obvious tribute to William Powell's Nick Charles, and the Wolf, who turns out to be an investigative reporter, wears the same ratty sweatshirt and Lakers jersey Chevy Chase wears at the beginning of Fletch. (The Vin Diesel XXX-inspired bits with Granny doing extreme sports, on the other hand, fall as flat as you'd expect.) There are a few elements like this, and the voicework, which, if given the proper support, could've made a decent film. It seems like an awful lot of effort to put together any animated film; why not spend that extra bit of effort it would take to make it really good?

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