“You’ve been had. You’ve been hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Led astray. Run amok!” Malcolm X. -- Seriously, were the creators of “Hoodwinked” thinking of one of Malcolm X’s famous speeches when thinking up a title for their computer animated film? I could think of a meeting at the Weinstein office: “Well, there’s Little Red Riding Hood, Shrek 2 is one of the Top 5 grossing films in history and I really liked this line when I watched Spike Lee’s flick on TBS last night…” The film “Hoodwinked” is a disaster in more ways than you can think of, but my god, that title! What could be worse than that title?Oh wait, now I have it: the animation. I have been a long-time fan and supporter of all forms of animation as a form of visual storytelling. (“Toy Story” was my favourite film of 1995, to cite a major example.) Over the years, however, computer animation has turned into a big hype machine and these days we are getting duds like “Madagascar” or, worse, films like “Robots” that are a visual eye-sore.
“Hoodwinked” is produced by an independent company with a small budget (and distributed by the Weinstein Company, now free from Miramax), yet even with lack of funds, it is more of an eye-sore in the way that instead of creepy looking robots, we have polygon-shaped heads and bodies with stillborn movement to them that tend to pan as their heads turn. It’s as if we’re getting a look at what “Toy Story” would have looked like had it been produced in 1983.
So here we are with a modern take on “Little Red Riding Hood” told in the style of Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”. Something really bad has happened in the woods involving Little Red, the Big Bad Wolf, Grandma and a Lumberjack, and as the film progresses we learn that multiple characters are telling their versions of the story, that Little Red (voiced by Anne Hathaway) really likes to sing pop tunes, and the filmmakers loved the 2003 Vin Diesel classic “xXx” so much that they turn Grandma into a thrill-seeking snowboarder with the same xXx tattoo on her back neck.
Ho, hum. Could we please move on from animated films with pop culture references and Hot New Soundtracks and go back to the John Lassiter days where there were some forms of original characters and stories that appealed to all ages? I can see very little kids getting a kick out of some of the pratfalls, but I think they’d be more interested to see something like “Chronicles of Narnia” or “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” right now.I am trying not to be hard on a feature film from an independent studio, but I think of last year’s Best Animated Short winner “Ryan”, a computer animated quickie that was filled with an imagination as well as a polished, interesting look even on a miniscule budget. “Hoodwinked” looks like it could have been made by anyone at anytime with a few computers handy.