To take the kids or not to take the kids? It’s not even a question, really, because the fucking powers-that-be in Hollywood don’t care enough to produce children’s fare that not only keeps the kids happy but also keeps their parents awake. The dearth of kid flicks that get released in any given year — let alone month — evinces appallingly bad judgment by the people with the power to greenlight; seriously, even the worst dreck released on any given week will pull in enough audience to seat a kids’ movie squarely in the top 10 grossers. We are that desperate, people. For my six-year-old and myself, I have but one request, Hollywood: Make more goddamn kids’ movies!
Now, as for Hoodwinked: I enjoyed it immensely, but my son? Let’s just say if he were Roger Ebert, he’d be giving Hoodwinked a weak thumbs up. Indeed, this is one of those rare kids’ films that offers more entertainment for adults than kids; personally, I laughed my ass off and made a total fool of myself in a theater packed with children and their harried escorts. Maybe the grownups were too keyed in on the fact that their kids were only mildly entertained; maybe I’m just lucky in that I have a preternaturally bright kid whose expansive exposure to pop culture makes him more able than the average bear to enjoy what turned out to be an adults’ film in kiddie-fare clothing.
A Rashomonesque (Rashomonian? Rashomonic?) take on the Little Red Riding Hood tale, it’s clear this is headed somewhere other than Happily Ever After right around the time an axe-wielding behemoth in lederhosen crashes through a plate-glass window, bellowing what seems to be death threats at Red, her Granny, and the Wolf. Moments later, the cops burst in and the overzealous bear in charge of the case moves to drag everyone “downtown” (“Sir, this is the woods. We don’t have a downtown …”), only to be supplanted in authority by the suave detective investigating a rash of recipe robberies throughout the woods. The “suspects” (Red, the Wolf, the “Woodsman,” and Granny herself) subsequently recount their individual versions of the events leading to this point. Suffice to say, the plot shares little with the source material, save core characters’ names and wardrobe.
I’ll say this for Hoodwinked — this has to have the most incredibly talented and entertaining voice-over work I’ve heard in years. While the ubiquitous Anne Hathaway handles her standard “Plucky Gal with Heart” dialogue with aplomb, the real stars are the stupendously funny (and heretofore underrated and underemployed) Patrick Warburton as The Wolf, the marvelously cast, pitch-perfect Andy Dick as The Bunny and, of all people, David Ogden Stiers (!) as Detective Flippers, the lead investigator, a frog with a Welsh accent and a wit as quick as his tongue. The rest of the cast is almost as terrific as these three; indeed, this is one cartoon movie to which it is a pleasure to listen.
As for the visuals, they’re unremarkable — which is not a BAD thing when you’re talking about a cartoon movie. I’m getting really sick, to tell you the truth, of the razzle-dazzle-‘em school of animated features. Look. Know your audience. The Polar Express would have been far more enjoyable with meat-and-potatoes animation instead of the creepy goddamn re-creation of every muscle movement, and everything about the real actors being faxed onto the screen … except their SOULS. Thankfully, Hoodwinked’s animation is refreshingly old school.
So, like I said — I had a blast watching this movie. Terry (my son) found certain elements so funny he roared aloud with pleasure — but those elements were not frequent enough to make up for the fact that, at bottom, this is no kids’ movie. Hoodwinked, besides offering the usual snarky bits slipped in ostensibly to keep parents mildly entertained while watching their umpteenth kiddie flick of the season, is replete with references to grownup movies no child under the age of 13 has yet seen, as well as a few nods to esoterica from highbrow culture and lowbrow classics alike. I suspect this might even become a classic for the habitual cannabis users among us; maybe the next generation will love it for both its stoner appeal and the fond remembrance of kiddie things past it will no doubt evoke in their later viewings of it.
So, in answer to my earlier question: Yeah, take the kids to see it. At worst, they’ll be mildly bored; though I do think, subversive as the filmmakers have been, they make a solidly successful effort to throw in enough to keep the children happy — and isn’t that an odd reversal of fortunes in the fate of the kiddie flick audience?
Maryscott O’Connor reviews children’s movies for Pajiba and publishes the liberal weblog My Left Wing. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son.Hoodwinked / Maryscott O'Connor
Film Reviews | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()