While it can be seen as an attempt to captialize on the "fairy tale" success of "Shrek", "Hoodwinked" is a mostly clever lower-budget CGI animated feature that takes a series of popular tales and spins them together into an amusing new story. The picture opens with Chief Grizzly (Xzbit) arriving at a crime scene, only to find Red Riding Hood (voice of Anne Hathaway), Woodsman (James Belushi), Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton) and Granny (Glenn Close) at the scene. Questioned by an uppity frog (David Odgen Stiers) and Chief Grizzly, the group eventually start telling their own very different takes on what happened.
A picture that manages to get laughs from the material, the performances and how incredibly bizarre it gets at times, "Hoodwinked" takes a few minutes to get going, but once it does, it does get some very solid laughs. The picture also manages to do a superb job appealing to both adults and children, and this is actually a rare animated movie that adults might want to consider picking up even if they don't have kids. Adults will find a witty, fresh and very funny take on these timeless tales, not to mention quite a few stellar visual gags.
It must be mentioned that, in terms of visuals, "Hoodwinked" does come up short, if only because the picture is operating with a fraction ($15m) of the kind of budget that most major animated features have at hand today. The visuals are more on the level of what one may find in a computer game. However, this didn't bother me - I was involved enough in the story to not be too concerned with the occasionally somewhat one-dimensional quality of the visuals. Hopefully, potential viewers who didn't catch the movie during its theatrical run can also look past this and settle in for a fun tale.
While the visuals are low-budget, the performances are certainly not. Hathaway provides a sly, winning performance as Riding Hood, while Patrick Warburton offers his usual deadpan brilliance as the Wolf. Glenn Close is also terrific as Granny, whose secret life as an extreme sports star comes as a shock to Red. Finally, there's the performance of co-director Cory Edwards as Twitchy, a hyperactive squirrel whose animated expressions and "fast forward" nature are priceless. The songs in the film aren't technically great, but I thought they were subtly goofing on song numbers in animated films and fit within the spirit of the rest of the movie.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by "Hoodwinked". It's a sweet little animated feature that's 80 minutes, yet feels even faster. Additionally, the performances are terrific and the characters and story are nicely developed for a quick flick.
VIDEO: "Hoodwinked" is presented by Genius Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the film's CG animation is rather basic, the presentation does a marvelous job of showing off every last little bit of detail present. Sharpness and detail are exceptional, as the picture appeared absolutely crystal clear at all times, with no softness whatsoever.
Additionally, no edge enhancement, pixelation or print flaws appeared. The presentation looked consistently clean and crisp throughout, with no concerns of note. Colors also looked great, appearing well-saturated and bold, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's sound design was tame, but functional. Surrounds were not called into action all that often, but were employed on occasion to throw in the occasional sound effect. Audio quality was perfectly fine throughout the show, as the score sounded rich and bassy, while dialogue sounded crisp and clean. Additionally, a few moments also brought a nice helping of bass to the proceedings, as well.
EXTRAS: writers/directors Tony Leech, Cory Edwards and Todd Edwards offer a full-length audio commentary for the feature. Additionally, we get 5 deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a 12-minute "making of", the film's trailer and the "Critters Have Feelings" (when the DVD first arrived, I looked at the box quickly and thought that it said, "Critics Have Feelings") music video.
Final Thoughts: Although it kicked off a bit slowly, "Hoodwinked" quickly gained steam and offered great performances, a fresh take on a classic story and some terrific gags. The DVD boasts outstanding image quality, fine audio and a nice set of supplements. Recommended.
The Film A-