While most of us have grown up watching cartoons you can hardly place those early Saturday morning diversions in the same category as the modern animated films. Feature length animated movies have been around since Walt Disney brought out ‘Snow White’ way back in 1937 starting a trend that has exploded exponentially every year since. Now the animated feature film is recognized as a legitimate means of cinematic expression. The last few years some of the best movies of the year have been animated. The motion picture Academy has not only given animated films their own Oscar category but a few examples have made it into receiving Best Picture nominations right beside their live action competitors. In short, animated movies cannot be accurately categorized as simple cartoons and they have transcended being just for children. Animated films currently run the gamut from touching romance as with ‘Wall-E’ to action/adventure faire as demonstrated with ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox’. Social commentary and darkly humorous satire can be added to the list with a fine example; ‘Hoodwinked’. This takes a beloved children’s folktale, "Little Red Riding Hood’ twisting it until it fits the criteria of a classic forties film noir detective mystery. Like many of the best examples of modern animation this one works seamlessly on two levels; the children will enjoy the talking animals while adults will find themselves snickering at the numerous puns and references to films the kids never knew existed. I realize that what follows here might represent a minority opinion but I really enjoyed this movie. I watched with my two closest friends, one of which is exceptionally picky about movies, and the three of us repeatedly laughed out loud. For a film that ostensibly a comedy, this is sort of the entire goal. Much of the humor, at least on the grown up level, is derived more from the familiarity of the style that anything else. The movie plays to well established archetypes.
The film was directed and written by Cory and Todd Edwards. Previously they worked together on a series; CCM-TV (Contemporary Christian Music Television). While suitable safe for the entire family there is nothing in the way of overt religious themes. As is the case with most animated movies this one features a cast of incredible actors to provide the voices including a pair of Academy Award nominated actresses; Glenn Close and Anne Hathaway and Oscar nominated actor, Chazz Palminteri. This is an exceptional cast for any type of movie. It is certain that this is a film with its share of flaws. What should be taken into consideration is the film genres that are parodied here are themselves imperfect and that is very much a considerable part of their charm. There is a strict format to the classic film noir detective flicks that this movie captures perfectly. You can just about see the characters, animated as there are, in the middle of a mystery that would challenge Sam Spade. In some ways this movie is in the tradition set by ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’. This is also the kind of movie that set out to entertain and easily achieves that goal. The criticism endured by the film makers of this work denounced it as flimsy, contrived and simplistic. You don’t need every movie to be a complex masterpiece; it is enough for a simple story to satisfy the audience. The basis of the story is an old folktale that has made it into one of the best known fairy tales in several cultures. Perhaps this is part of what I enjoyed about this film; the juxtaposition of a familiar story in a completely novel setting.
One very common technique used by this type of mystery is beginning the story in the middle. Here the events between Red Riding Hood (voiced by Anne Hathaway), the Big Bad wolf (voiced by Patrick Warburton) Granny (voiced by Glenn Close) and the Woodsman (voiced by James Belushi) have already transpired. The four are in being held in custody by police chief Grizzly (voiced by Xzibit) and the extent of what happened is under investigation by police detective Bill Stork (voiced by Anthony Anderson). Just as they are about to leave the scene a well known private investigator, Nicky Flippers (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) shows up demanding he take over the case. For those into the golden age genre you will immediately recognize a spoof of ‘The Thin Man’ right down to the little dog in tow. Slowly the story comes out utilizing another familiar methodology; relating the same basic events from the vantage point of each of the four individuals. It is up to the viewer to piece together the four variations deciding what is true and what misdirection is. Even when the four viewpoints overlap there are subtle differences that contribute to understanding the overall tale.
The usual story of the Wolf eating Granny and the Woodsman saving the day is pretty much abandoned in favor of an insidious criminal conspiracy. Granny is a purveyor of some of the best baked treats in the valley. Red typically delivers them but this routine is interrupted by a growing crime wave perpetrated by the ‘Goody Bandit’ one by one his thief has been stealing the recipes putting the goody industry out of business. One of the last hold outs is Granny and therein lays the tale. A sufficient number of actual clues are dropped throughout the movie that it is possible to solve the mystery; something that is fun for the family to do just before the concluding reveal. Lighten up, kick back and just take this movie as it was intended, an afternoon of fun for the whole family.