Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.
What's the big deal?
Hoodwinked! (also known as Hoodwinked) is an animated comedy fantasy film released in 2005 and was directed and co-written by Cory Edwards. The film was one of the first independently produced CG animation films and offers a retelling of the story of Red Riding Hood as a police investigation, told from four different perspectives. The film's voice cast features Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Jim Belushi, Patrick Warburton, David Ogden Stiers and Xzibit. Despite a relatively tiny budget compared to those of films from more established studios like Pixar or DreamWorks, the film went on to make a respectable $110 million worldwide. However, the film received a mixed response from critics—the movie was praised for its cast and story-telling but heavily criticised for the quality of its animation. The film was followed by a sequel, Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs Evil in 2011, which bombed at the box office.
What's it about?
Little Red Riding Hood arrives at her grandmother's house, only to find that a big and bad wolf has apparently replaced her and is in disguise. As a tied-up Granny escapes from the closet to help save Red from the Wolf's attack, a burly axe-wielding lumberjack crashes through the window and takes everyone by surprise. Within moments, the police arrive and arrest all four of them for domestic disturbances. The lead investigator, anthropomorphic frog Det. Nicky Flippers, decides to question each of the four of them separately in order to get the full picture.
Red tells her story of trying to escape the mysterious Goodie Bandit in order to protect her grandmother's recipes. The Wolf, for his part, explains that he is an investigative reporter on the trail of the Goodie Bandit alongside his hyperactive squirrel assistant Twitchy. Believing that Red and her grandmother might lead him to the Bandit, Wolf discovers Granny tied up in the closet and lays in wait to question Red. For his part, the Woodsman is a struggling actor auditioning to play a woodsman for a commercial - without much luck. And as for Granny herself, she has a few secrets that put her in a different light...
Kirk The Woodsman
Wolf W. Wolf
Det. Bill Stork
David Ogden Stiers
Det. Nicky Flippers
Chief Ted Grizzly
Cory & Todd Edwards and Tony Leech**
Release Date (UK)
29th September, 2006
Animation, Comedy, Crime
What's to like?
First of all, I think it's important to applaud the film for being produced independently - while this obviously limits the budget, the film is free from any sort of interference from studio executives which actually gives the film a rather anarchic edge I wasn't expecting. I also wasn't anticipating the film being genuinely funny in places, largely thanks to Warburton's performance as the wily Wolf and director Cory Edwards' cameo as Twitchy. In truth, the film's cast do a respectable job throughout and has an impressive calibre for a film with this small a budget. Best of all, I enjoyed the film's attempts to subvert the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood by introducing elements of film noir and comedy into the narrative which actually works really well. It helps to keep a tired and predictable story from becoming stale as well as offering something new and different to jaded parents.
Hoodwinked finds itself competing in a difficult market and one that is growing ever more competitive since Pixar, the widely acknowledged masters of CG animation, kicked things off with the magnificent Toy Story way back in 1995. Naturally, the film lacks much of the polish of its bigger budgeted brethren but it is still an enjoyable film that pokes fun at itself and more conventional pictures. Kids will enjoy the film's frenetic pace, colourful visuals and amusing characters while adults won't be totally turned off thanks to some snappy dialogue and in-jokes. I like a film that tries to offer viewers something more and this film is a good example.
- It's been suggested that the Wolf character is based on Chevy Chase's titular character in Fletch - both are investigative reporters that use a variety of disguises, both say that they are shepards when asked and even Wolf's theme music sounds similar to that of Fletch.
- The film's animation was produced entirely in the Philippines by Digital Eyecandy, an animation studio founded by Maurice Kanbar - who co-founded Kanbar Entertainment with producer Sue Bea Montgomery in 2002. The film would be distributed by the Weinstein Company, their first ever animated picture.
- The role of Granny was originally voiced by Sally Struthers who spent two years on the project, playing the character as a southern battleaxe. Glenn Close was brought in as part of the Weinstein's recasting of the film in an attempt to make it more marketable. Edwards appreciated the recasting and consider the changes part of the reason for the film's financial success.
What's not to like?
Unfortunately, there are some sizable issues that the film is unable to overcome. I know I've said about the film's microscopic budget compared to those of more recognisable titles but this has a massive impact on the quality of the animation. It might be colourful and cartoony but it's also very angular and clinical, lacking much of the charm and sophistication of its many competitors. It reminded me of the first Despicable Me but it's nothing like as witty as that film was. In places, it's almost ugly to the point where even children will be put off watching it. I don't blame the animators as they probably did as good a job as they could. I just wanted the bean-counters to have been a bit more generous.
There are some other, less prominent issues with the film I didn't like. The film's narrative relies on a Pulp Fiction-style of storytelling that involves multiple perspectives and jumps forward and backwards in time that will confuse younger viewers. The other problem is that it arrived far too late to be properly groundbreaking. It's no surprise that many critics compared Hoodwinked to the far superior Shrek which also poked fun at fairy tale convention and Hollywood cliche in equal measure but looks far better, has a better cast and had released two films by the time this one was released. Hoodwinked might well be a milestone for independent cinema but no family is going to watch this thinking of that. They'll just be wondering why it looks so bad.
Should I watch it?
It's no classic and is as ugly as a witch's nose but there is enough good fun to be found in Hoodwinked to just about recommend it. The script is better than you'd expect and the film has enough comedy to suit viewers young and old but the shoddy visuals mean the film never really threatens the rest of the overcrowded CG animation crowd. Give it a chance, I say.
Great For: fans of Shrek, young quarantined families, independent filmmakers
Not So Great For: pushing the boundaries of CG, scaring the likes of Pixar, Filipino animators
What else should I watch?
When I say that this film had a small budget compared to studio releases, I am not exaggerating. Compared to the modest $8 million behind Hoodwinked, the likes of Ice Age ($59 million) and Open Season ($85 million) seem astonishingly excessive despite being released around the same time. Of course, if you already have a successful franchise that you can produce popular sequels for then the budget can skyrocket even further. Both Frozen II and Toy Story 4 cost well over $150 million to produce but having said that, they both went on to earn more than $1 billion...
Of course, the traditional fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood recently received a lavish Hollywood remake which turned the story into a twisted love story with elements of classic werewolf horror films. Despite a cast including Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman and Virginia Madsen and produced by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio, Red Riding Hood was a critical and commercial disaster and part of a recent trend of fairy tales being adapted for the big screen. I personally blame Disney who have been remaking their animated classics in live-action films such as Cinderella and Beauty And The Beast or spin-offs like Maleficent. They're not exactly my taste but if you're a fan then there's no shortage of films to indulge in.
© 2020 Benjamin Cox