I think she’s “horny”. Get it? Get it? Oh, forget it.

Golden Mug

WINNER: Animated Film

Theatrical Release Date: 01/13/2006
Directors: Cory and Todd Edwards
Featuring the Voices of: Anne Hathaway, Patrick Warburton, Glenn Close, James Belushi

In a year devoid of ANY good animated films, one has finally stood up to be counted. “Hoodwinked” was released nationwide last weekend, though it was released in L.A. in December briefly, most likely to be able to garner an Oscar nomination.

Judging from its competition, which I suppose would be “Chicken Little” or the equally inane “Valiant” since they’re the only other animated films I can even remember, this should win hands down if the category is announced this year.

I say IF, because in reading the Academy Rules, in order for a Best Animated Feature Award to be handed out, there must be a certain number of eligible animated films (eight if my memory serves me correctly) in order for the category to be announced.

All that award hooey aside, don’t get me wrong. In most Pixar film cycles, this film would lose out. But maybe due to not having seen a good animated film in over a year, I really enjoyed “Hoodwinked”.

Written and directed by Cory and Todd Edwards, “Hoodwinked” is an interesting amalgam of film genres and ideas. Centered around the Little Red Riding Hood tale we all know so well, in the Edwards’ version a confectionary crook is out to steal everyone’s sweets. The police nab the Wolf, Red, Granny and a large axe-wielding foreigner in an altercation and try to determine who among them is the ‘Goodie Bandit’.

The film is told using their different viewpoints. In reading reviews for this, many critics are bashing this as a boring film and almost all of them reference Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”, as he used the same story telling technique for that film about fifty years ago. It’s like one guy found the connection and everyone else jumped on the bandwagon.

I, for one, found the more adult take on a fairy tale world interesting and a breath of fresh air to a stagnant pool of “Shrek” clones.

I will admit though, that the film isn’t chock full of laughs. It’s more of a pleasant adventure through the woods. And I will freely admit that the Granny character was a little annoying, as her double life led her to extreme sports. (Yes, the Mountain Dew joke was used.)

In reference to that, “Hoodwinked” is loaded with homages and nods to other films. In this initial viewing, I caught a reference to “XXX”, “Mission Impossible” and an ongoing tip of the hat to “Fletch”. Unlike “Madagascar”, which tried to be hip and reference other films, “Hoodwinked” pulled it off, adding another layer of enjoyment for the adults in the audience.

Still, what mostly kept the film fresh for me was the voice acting, which was very well done. The ubiquitous Red was given plenty of personality by the very lovely and talented Anne Hathaway. Her Grandmother was done well enough by Glenn Close and the axe-wielding foreign woodsman had some nice subtle touches thrown in by James Belushi, especially during a song in which his character glorifies schnitzels.

The scene stealer, as far as voice work goes, was Patrick Warburton as the Wolf. No stranger to bringing life to cartoons (I liked his work as the Tick), Warburton helped keep the spirit of the film lively. A lesser actor could have really dragged down the production.

Supporting cast were done nicely by the likes of Anthony Anderson, David Ogden Stiers, Chazz Palminteri, Andy Dick and Xzibit. That’s right, our favorite ride pimper, ‘X to the Z’, gets in on the fun. Good times. Also, who doesn’t love a squirrel (voiced by the director no less) that’s so hyper you’d think it was medicated? The answer: no one.

Now, another knock I’ve read about this film is the quality of the animation. I admit it was a bit clunky, probably due to the small budget allowed by the Weinsteins. I actually think that worked to the film’s favor. The script was tight and well done, so all of that animated trickery would have been a bit too garish in my humble opinion.

I don’t see why each new animated film has to be done just like every other Pixar venture. Having a different sense of style and movement can be a good thing. Sure, “Hoodwinked” could be more fluid but the writing and voice acting more than make up for it.

So in the end, when all is said and done, “Hoodwinked” nabs a 3 out of 5. It could have been a bit more punchy, but this is easily the best animated film that was released over the last 52 weeks. And maybe I’m giving this an easier time because I got to spend 80 some minutes listening to Anne Hathaway. Like that’s a bad thing?

I wouldn’t necessarily say “Hoodwinked” is a must see but if you have kids (planned or otherwise), you can do a lot worse than this film.