" It’s been 84 years and I can still smell the fresh paint "
— Gloria Stuart, Titanic

MRQE Top Critic

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

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Hoodwinked purports to tell the real story behind the story of Little Red Riding Hood. But the real story of Hoodwinked is the story of Hoodwinked.

Why, Why, Why?

Red gets interrogated, Rashomon-style
Red gets interrogated, Rashomon-style

Computer-generated feature films have been getting more advanced and more expensive every year, thanks to powerhouses like Pixar, DreamWorks, and now Disney.

Why, then, is the newly-formed Weinstein Company, which is a distribution company and not a production company, releasing a computer-generated cartoon? And why, as good as it looks, does it still look cheap? Why do textures and backgrounds look like mottled video-game terrain and not detailed, carefully-crafted universes? And why do the creators only have one movie in their IMDB filmography?

It’s almost as if some wunderkind made a home movie that was good enough for the Weinsteins to acquire.

The story-behind-the-story is probably more interesting than Hoodwinked itself.

Edginess + Fairy Tale

This cartoon is a reasonably entertaining bit of fluff, but it’s hardly inspiring. Adding “edginess” to a fairy tale has cured many a cartooninst’s writer’s block. The story of Red Riding Hood is told three times from three different perspectives, to a frog detective named Mr. Flippers (David Ogden Stiers). He’s not only trying to understand why the police were called to grandma’s house, but also who’s been stealing all the recipes from the dwellers of the woods.

The Rashomon-like story structure is one of Hoodwinked’s better traits. Red’s tale (the first telling of events) is fairly recognizable as the story from Mother Goose. Each subsequent retelling adds a new layer to the story. One of the characters turns out to be an investigative reporter. Another is a hapless actor who stumbled upon the scene. And yet somehow, the identity of the goody recipe bandit remains elusive until the end.

Cut to the Chase

But the pacing could be better. For every unexpected joke, there are two or three predictable ones (the best jokes are, alas, revealed in the movie’s trailer). And though some characters are likeable (the wolf and the squirrel were particularly tolerable), none of them adds much depth to the shallow story.

And rather than writing a smart ending that completes the story, the filmmakers opt for a James Bond-inspired chase scene that provides a somewhat visceral climax, if not any actual denouement.

If you were hoping for a recommendation, don’t get too discouraged. Hoodwinked doesn’t suck. It’s entertaining and funny for the duration, if a little thin. But those of us looking for that little extra in a movie won’t find it here.

The Real Hoodwinked

It turns out that Hoodwinked really was produced independently, although not nearly as cheaply as I first guessed. The Weinsteins picked it up at Cannes in 2005. The film had been financed by an inventor who loved animation. The film cost “just under 15 million dollars” to make, according to VFSWorld. Filipino animators using Maya software created the bulk of the production.

The point is that, for a first feature, Hoodwinked is not bad. It shows that the little guy can play on the same field as the big boys.

Unfortunately, it also shows that there is still a recognizable gap between the little guy and the big boy, and that no matter your size, your movie will never be any better than your writing.