Friday, June 30, 2006


Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Anne Hathaway is currently disrobing on our local screens, and I suspect by the time Havoc finished its run, then she'll be heard but not seen, only lending her voice in the animated feature Hoodwinked, by Blue Yonder Films and Kanbar Entertainment. By not being a product churned out from the usual Disney-Pixar-Dreamworks-Fox studios, it's a delightful departure from the expected norms we already have formed by offerings from the mentioned studios.

It's a very adult animated movie, in having multiple probably plots told in a whodunnit fashion. Gone are the laugh-a-minute spoofs on pop culture, not that Hookwinked is relying on the few it has on offer, and in comes some old fashioned comedy done right. Songs are also limited, given that it's only an 80 minute movie, that doesn't have much time to incorporate a mini-musical.

The plot adopts the fairy tale classic of Little Red Riding Hood, where the crimson hooded girl delivers some cakes to her grandmother's house, but found a wolf in her granny's pyjamas, and with her life at stake, she is rescued by a nearby woodsman. Or so we were led to think. In this modern day retelling, we're given a twist to this aged old story, and it's more than meets the eye.

Each of the characters - the Wolf (Patrick Warburton), the Woodsman (James Belushi), the Granny (Glenn Close) and even Red herself, seem to be hiding an agenda, and each are more than who they claim to be. In detective noir tradition, Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) investigates and probes into each of their account of what brought them to that fateful location, and the events that transpired. And this is the highlight of the movie.

With each retelling, the audience gets involved through identifying the timelines where certain events cross one another, and how certain actions become misinterpreted to comedic effect. It's nothing very cerebral about it, as you would have probably guess who's guilty soon enough before the revelation, but what is admired, is how the scriptwriters come up with these zany plot ideas, and interlinking them together is no small feat.

Nonetheless, there are areas during the retelling which are simply quite plain, while some have become gems on their own. Given the many characters, most of which are relegated to few lines of dialogue, some of them just gave way to stereotypes, like most of the piggy cops playing it just for laughs. And there's also a hyperactive squirrel in this picture stealing the show, much like the one in Over the Hedge. Is a squirrel becoming the new animated in-thing?

In a plot involving stolen recipes, Hoodwinked's animation will take a while to get used to. Not that it's bad, but I felt that it wasn't as fluid, or meant to be photo-realistic, given its rather blocky 2D artwork. Then again, it's the story that matters, and this one doesn't pretend to be anything more than an average whodunnit. Fun stuff.

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