directed by Todd & Cory Edwards
(Weinstein, 2005)

My entire family laughed -- heck, we outright guffawed -- pretty much straight through all 80 minutes of Hoodwinked.

The concept of this animated film is clever, if not entirely original. The Red Riding Hood story gets reworked into a police procedural, with Red (Anne Hathaway), her Granny (Glenn Close), the wolf (Patrick Warburton) and the woodsman (Jim Belushi) all giving different accounts from their points of view. (Half of the fun is seeing how each version overlaps -- like, for instance, why a vision of Granny appears to Red in the clouds at a moment of need and why an avalanche chased both Red and the wolf down the mountainside.)

Everyone has secrets, it seems, and the story revolves around a greater conspiracy to corner the thriving goodies market throughout the woods. While the villain was spotted almost immediately by our eagle-eyed 14-year-old son (a character dismissed by my wife and I as being too obvious to be the actual culprit), the progress from beginning to denouement was a hoot all the way over the river, through the woods, up the mountain, down the mountain and over a couple of cliffs.

There are a host of supporting characters who add to the adventure, from Inspector Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) and the ubiquitous bunny Boingo (Andy Dick) to Twitchy the naturally caffeinated squirrel (Cory Edwards) and Japeth the singing goat (Benjy Gaither).

The animation is fluid 3-D cartoony goodness -- not the best I've seen in this big-budget CGI age, but nothing to sneer at, either -- and the dialogue is fast and furious. It was all enough to keep my foursome in stitches, although some of the funniest zingers shot right over the kids' heads and made my wife and I laugh even harder. A couple of musical numbers could have been sacrificed, mind you -- except for Japeth's contributions, which are truly hilarious.

Hoodwinked is a zany gem that did not deserve to fall through the cracks in 2005; those of us who missed it should rectify that mistake quick on DVD.

by Tom Knapp
9 December 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.