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2 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

Hoodwinked

**

Written and directed by

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Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards

and Tony Leech

Starring the voices of

Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close,

Patrick Warburton, James Belushi and David Ogden Stiers

Classification: G

The new CGI-animated movie Hoodwinked is offered as a sort of discount Shrek, another 'toon with 'tude that reworks a traditional fairy tale. Instead of rehashing the old wolf's tale, Hoodwinked purports to tell us the "real story" of Little Red Riding Hood, starting with a domestic disturbance at Grandma's house, and there's no doubt things start promisingly -- some cross-species dressing, a grandmother in bondage and an axe-wielding idiot who comes crashing through a window.

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Unlike the traditional LRRH, the principal players -- "Red," the wolf, grandma and the woodcutter -- survive and tell their stories. The directing-writing trio of Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards and Todd Leech structure their story Rashomon-style, around the four characters' testimonies. What big ambitions you have, Grandma.

And what a disappointingly modest follow-through. The characters relate their accounts to a trio of policemen, including a debonair frog named Nicky Flippers (voiced by David Ogden Stiers), accompanied by police chief Grizzly (Xzibit) and Detective Bill Stork (Anthony Anderson). Each story amplifies the previous one, leading to a final act in which a mysterious "goodie bandit," who has been stealing the forest animals' baked goods, is revealed.

The comparison to Shrek isn't entirely fair ( Hoodwinked's budget was $15-million [U.S.]to Shrek 2's $75-million) but movie tickets cost the same price.

This first animated feature from the post-Disney Weinstein Company has a dated, glossy, untextured animation that looks several years out of date. But the comparison is more extreme in the area where money matters least, the script. The Shrek movies combined satire, romance and an underdog story. Hoodwinked wedges wisecracks between scenes of kung fu, hang-gliding, a singing billy goat and the chatterings of a hyperactive squirrel. All of it feels like an exercise in stretching a 15-minute short-film idea into 80 minutes running time.

Anne Hathaway (who recently made the transition from fairy-tale roles to more grownup parts in Havoc and Brokeback Moutain) sounds teenage-jaded as the voice for the not-so-innocent Red, who is chafing in her limited forest life as a baked-goods delivery girl. Cue the song Great Big World. Other characters systematically unfold their deviation from their traditional roles: The Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton) is an arch investigative reporter; Granny (Glenn Close) is a trash-talking extreme-sports fanatic, and the woodcutter (Jim Belushi), a dim-witted Austrian strongman and aspiring actor who drives a schnitzel truck. Cue The Schnitzel Song.

Enough, already. Apart from the songs (there's a good one called Red Is Blue, sung by Ben Folds), Hoodwinked feels uncannily like a too-chipper children's computer game that has somehow become unlinked from its best feature, the interactive menu: Save. Quit. Reload much later.

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