On first look, this animated revamping of the Little Red Riding Hood story seems to farm the same well-tilled soil as the plethora of big studio animated features. Yet there’s much more of a rich homegrown quality to this little animated pearl that kicks with spicy zing emanating from its original songs. Anne Hathaway does her best little blase Janeane Garofalo voice as Red, a bicycle-riding delivery girl for her Granny’s (Glenn Close) baked goodies.
An unknown thief has been stealing pastries from around the forest at the same time that Red discovers a cross-dressing wolf in her Granny’s bed. Screenwriter and co-director Todd Edwards caresses the fun with 27 brilliantly poppy songs that range in style from driving rock to hip-hop, funk, surf, country, folk, Bossa Nova, teen pop and inspired instrumental orchestral motifs. The soundtrack alone is enough to make the movie a winner.
These Little Red Riding Hood characters are full of personality surprises. The movie opens with Red arriving at her Granny’s house only to confront the big bad Wolf wearing a Granny disguise that our quick-witted lass sees right through. Red questions the Wolf at length before the scene comes to an abrupt finale when her gagged and bound Granny pops out of the closet just as a Woodsman bursts in on the cottage with his trusty ax. Detective frog Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) arrives at the scene to weed through four interweaving testimonies told by Red, the Woodsman (Jim Belushi), Granny and the Wolf (Patrick Warburton).
It’s soon revealed that the Wolf is not the drooling monster we traditionally think of, but rather a reporter researching the spate of bakery robberies. The Woodsman is really an actor rehearsing for a role as a Woodsman when he isn’t driving a schnitzel truck and Granny has a knack for extreme sports. Red has some kung fu moves up her sleeve that come in handy against some villainous humans with their own grudges against our snowboarding Granny.
Anne Hathaway (Brokeback Mountain) cinches the film’s enjoyable tone with a vocal characterization that breathes with comic life. Andy Dick does a neat vocal turn as a quirky bunny rabbit and Jim Belushi’s intonation is downright hilarious as pictured through the clumsy guise of the muscle bound Woodsman. The animation is state-of-the-art CGI that the filmmakers contain in a consistent palate of visual smartness.
Cory Edwards, Tony Leech and Todd Edwards all did dual duties of scripting and directing the movie, and their euphoric collaboration carries an unmistakable stamp of unique talents working in harmony. The film’s cheerful songs are immediately memorable and infectious, and although the version that I screened was not in 3-D, Hoodwinked! is due to be released as a 3-D feature film. With or without the 3-D, Hoodwinked! is a clever screwball take on the Little Red Riding Hood fable that speaks to the kid in all of us. MTW