MOVIE | Hoodwinked II

Christy Llemire / AP Movie Critic / January 13, 2006

(AP) - Like a poor man's "Shrek," the fractured fairy tale "Hoodwinked" is waiting for you in theaters with big ears, big eyes and big teeth, but little bite.

Yet another product of three-dimensional, computer-generated animation, "Hoodwinked" takes the story of Little Red Riding Hood and overstuffs it with smart-alecky humor and contemporary pop culture references.

Besides "Shrek," it also borrows heavily from "Fletch" - so would that make it "Shletch"? - featuring a Big Bad Wolf who's really an undercover investigative reporter with fake names and a Lakers jersey, and an electronic score that sounds like something Harold Faltermeyer pounded out.

"Hoodwinked" is also the latest in a never-ending series of movies to use "Rashomon"-style storytelling to explain its convoluted comic mystery from a variety of perspectives - though it took three people, the writing-directing team of Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards and Tony Leech, to come up with it.

If you hadn't figured it out by now, "Hoodwinked" doesn't have an original idea in its head. Kids might be entertained by the colorful aesthetics and nonstop energy; there's an overcaffeinated squirrel, appropriately named Twitchy, who serves as the Wolf's overzealous photographer. But adults, clearly the script's real target, will see the film for what it really is: hackneyed, inferior and irrelevant.

And that's too bad, because "Hoodwinked" brings together a talented vocal cast, including Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Andy Dick, David Ogden Stiers and voiceover veteran Patrick Warburton.

Red (Hathaway) arrives at the home of her Granny (Close) after delivering baked goodies throughout the forest and instead finds the Wolf (Warburton) dressed in a nightie and wearing a mask. Granny, meanwhile, is tied up and gagged in the closet.

Red turns to fight off this intruder, using her prodigious karate skills. "You again?" she asks, annoyed. "What do I have to do, get a restraining order?" But, just then, in busts the axe-wielding Woodsman (Jim Belushi), who really wants to be an actor.

Crime-scene tape goes up, reporters swarm outside, and the rest of the movie consists of Police Chief Grizzly (rapper Xzibit) and Detective Stork (Anthony Anderson) interviewing the suspects to determine what really happened in this apparent breaking-and-entering and whether it might be related to the work of the Goody Bandit, who's been stealing recipes from the local bakeries.

(Naturally, all the cops have Brooklyn accents and they say things like "Book 'em," except for Stiers' detective character, a dapper frog named Nicky Flippers who looks and sounds like the gecko from the Geico commercials.)

The repeated tellings of the day's events reveal that no one is who he or she initially seems, including (and most obviously) the furry, flamboyant bunny rabbit, Boingo (voiced by Dick), the film's funniest character.

Granny, meanwhile, is forced to admit that she's secretly into extreme sports, which drives a wedge between her and Red, who feels she's been lied to her whole life. Not only is this subplot a flimsy source of conflict, it's also a forced attempt at injecting "Hoodwinked" with hipness.

But even before Granny utters the phrase "Fo' shizzle" to her homies, something Snoop Dogg doesn't even say anymore, this conceit is painfully awkward. It's like when a snack food or a soft drink comes out with a new marketing campaign that features a tiger on a snowboard or a polar bear breakdancing - totally transparent and out of touch.

What critics think doesn't matter, though, when it comes to family films. If Mom and Dad and the kids can all see a movie together, they do. And the makers of "Hoodwinked" know it, as evidenced by this little dig: Wolf gets stuck underground while investigating the Goody Bandit and utters to his buddy the squirrel: "Why couldn't I write movie reviews?"

Hey, it ain't all fairy-tale endings on this end either, pal.
"Hoodwinked," a Weinstein Co. release, is rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements. Running time: 86 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.