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For the purposes of this review, which concerns a film I had no interest in watching, I have employed the assistance of a few friends: The Sisters Ridge.

Olivia: Age 5
Sierra: Age 7
Hailey: Age 11
Faline: Age 13

Hoodwinked: Special Edition

Feature


The tale of Little Red Riding Hood is turned on its head as it's explored from each participant’s point of view. The fairy tale woods have been plagued with goody recipe theft, which has closed down almost every local sweets shop. Could one of these suspects—Red, the Wolf, the Woodsman, and Granny—be the Goody Bandit?

The Brothers Weinstein seem to have decided to join in on the computer generated animation game, only they don't seem to want to spend very much money on their first release. Hoodwinked is a semi-charming spectacle that basically looks like something a first year computer animation student produced for his mid-term. The human characters especially lack emotion and believability, and their designs are decidedly lacking. The film's production budget figures put the cost at around $15 million, but if they were anything more than $10,000, I'd be surprised. All that money must've gone to the voice cast talent.

It seems that computer animation is quickly dividing itself into two categories: Pixar and Not Pixar. Pixar films are, as I'm sure you already know, works of genius, succeeding on almost every conceivable level. Not Pixar films are usually taken from short-story origins, written over a weekend, and seem to have a specific pop-culture reference to minute ratio. Needless to say, I've not been a fan of Not Pixar films since Shrek was released.

I like my children's entertainment to have a little something called 'heart', which has so far been lacking in every Not Pixar completely computer animated film I've seen, and though I haven't seen them all, I've seen enough bits and pieces to make a pretty broad generalization (please, correct me if I'm wrong). Like bad, popular Hollywood comedy, these films seem to forget that plots and characters can be just as entertaining as referential jokes. The real problem with add-libbed, pop culture spoof is that it immediately dates the film, ensuring that few of these films will be remembered even ten years later.

Hoodwinked: Special Edition
But Hoodwinked, despite its ugly animation and post- Shrek spoof overload, has its moments. These moments are mostly due to the cracker-jack comic timing of one of the finest voice actors alive, Patrick Warburton, and the songs sung by two characters, Japeth the Goat and the Woodsman. Warburton, as the Wolf, is deadpan perfection, and most likely always will be. Japeth, a goat cursed with the need to sing instead of speaking brings the house down with his banjo plucking preparedness tune, which explains all the uses for his various horn attachments. The Woodsmen, voiced by the never-was of has-beens Jim Beluschi, gets his moment in the sun while singing a traditional German sounding number about selling strudel as his day job. The number ends with him realizing his strudel truck was stripped for parts while he was singing.

Beyond these few high points, I not only found Hoodwinked unfunny, but surprisingly boring. As a cartoon loving adult I simple don't understand how the quality of cinema release animation can be plummeting in quality, while its small screen counterpart is better than ever. Seriously, this is a Golden Era of TV animation, from intelligent young children's programming ( Dora the Explorer not withstanding), to teen action series, and the loveable antics of Cartoon Network's late night Adult Swim line-up. How can the larger budgeted, major studio creations be so lacking?

"We don't want to hear it Gabe, what'd the kids think?"

Gauging the girls' reactions and later comments, I'd say that Hoodwinked was a bit of a triumph. The readily laughed at and repeated several one-liners, but never quite spiralled into the giggling hysterics of youth being entertained beyond the call of duty. I've seen this behaviour before, it's a sign of enjoyment, but the possibility of remembrance isn't necessarily set in stone. I did get the feeling that the girls would willingly sit through the film again, which could create a healthy obsession, but there were a few too many stretches of silence for me to assume that this was one of the best films they'd ever seen.

The good news for the filmmakers is that all four girls enjoyed the film about the same, meaning they have an age spanning work on their hands. The surprisingly high box-office take dictates the possibility of a sequel, and I'm pretty sure at least three of the four would be interested in seeing further adventures of these characters.

Hoodwinked: Special Edition
When asked, I wanted to describe the plot as Rashomon meets Little Red Riding Hood, but I was pretty sure that it'd go over their heads. And I was pretty sure they wouldn't be willing to sit through Kurwasawa's masterpiece to prepare them for the story telling style. Some day I'll have kids of my own and they'll know what I'm talking about.

Video


Hoodwinked is, I'm guessing, take directly from its digital source. There is not artefacting, grain, or compression to speak of. Colours are bright and never bleed. This is a very clean image. However, the contrast levels are screwy. The question I'm left with is whether this is the fault of the original filmmakers or the makers of this DVD. The poverty row animation seems to hint at this being the way the film looked in theatres. I didn't see the film in theatres, so I have no definitive proof. Regardless, this is ugly animation made uglier with harsh lighting. I should note that this led one of the girls to notice a continuity error at the end of the film that I'd missed. In one scene the sky is dark and in the next it's sunny as spring. Perhaps if there was more in the way of middle ground in the lighting the filmmakers could've gotten away with this.

Audio


The English 5.1 Dolby Digital track is crisp and clean without a lick of distortion. The girls whipped their heads around a few times to look at the surround speakers, which I suppose means that the surround effects worked. This isn't Gary Rydstrom (the Pixar and Lucasfilm regular) level sound design, but for such a cheap looking movie I have to give it the benefit of the doubt (though apparently it was mixed by the same man who mixed The Incredibles). Music tracks are well balanced without being too loud or bass heavy (this is meant for children after all), and dialogue is for the most part clear, except for Xzibit who plays Chief Grizzly. Throughout the film it kind of sounded like his voice was being recorded from a different room. Strange. Basically this is a very good track that lacks the kind of source material to put it over the top, though there are a few juicy explosions.

Hoodwinked: Special Edition

Extras


The first of the extras is a group effort commentary track that I really didn't want to sit through. The participants are fun enough, but really very unfunny, though they think they're funny, which makes it a bit annoying. Perhaps it was aimed at children, though I'm yet to meet a child who wanted to sit through a commentary. I admit to skipping around and not listening to the whole thing, but I did get a few titbits, and a possible explanation for the contrast issues. It seems the filmmakers wanted a sort of noir look to pieces of the story. Basically they were playing with clichés. I did appreciate that the commentators mentioning the fact that commentaries are ripe for criticism in this day and age. If they read this, I'd like to apologize and remind them that I'm only doing my job, and I do feel kind of bad about some of the things I wrote about the film before I watched the commentary.

My favourite special features were the deleted and extended scenes. The girls adamantly wanted to watch these, and they weren't bad, though two of the extended scenes were only very slightly extended. Only one is presented in only storyboard fashion, which animation fans may know is the preferred way to delete a scene when it comes to an animated film. These are followed up by a featurette that is brief but surprisingly informative, especially from the standpoint of the projects genesis. The feature was very much a group effort, which explains both the film's enjoyable bits and its schizophrenic sense of humour. So I guess a little good, a little bad. The featurette also makes it clear that the film was based partially on neighbourhood kid focus groups.

Also included is a trailer, a trailer for the other Weinstein animated release Doogal, and a ‘Critters Have Feelings’ music video, which has been fully animated, and shockingly includes no film footage.

Hoodwinked: Special Edition

Overall


Well, I didn't really dig it, but it was much better than I'd thought it'd be, and had two great musical moments. It's a small film with small film aspirations, and I have to give it credit for being what it wanted to be. The DVD is the usual high quality, direct digital affair, and has some decent extras. But what did the kids think? I explained the out of ten scoring we used on the site, and this is how they replied:

Faline (13): 8 out of 10
Hailey (11): 10 out of 10
Sierra (7): 9.5 out of 10
Olivia (5): 500 out of 10

So there you have it, not too popular with the jaded grown-up reviewer, but a blast for the kiddies.


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