Little Red Riding Hood gets a cheeky CGI makeover in “Hoodwinked!,” a fast-paced, fitfully clever 3-D-animated feature that will entertain tykes but provide scant novelty for auds who’ve had their fill of revisionist fairy tale gags and postmodern ‘tude from the “Shrek” franchise. The Weinstein Co.’s first toon acquisition, which opens today in Los Angeles for a one-week Oscar-qualifying run, is a pint-sized production that could rack up modest family biz when it goes wide Jan. 13, though investors probably won’t be marveling, “My, what big box office you’ve got.”
Purporting to tell the “real story” behind the classic children’s tale, pic opens by revisiting the climactic confrontation between Little Red Riding Hood (voiced by Anne Hathaway) and the not-so-well-disguised Wolf (Patrick Warburton) at Granny’s house. Chaos reigns when a trussed-up Granny (Glenn Close) bursts out of the closet and the axe-wielding Woodsman (Jim Belushi) suddenly comes crashing through the window, after which the screen abruptly goes black.
From there, the tale splinters into a sort of “Rashomon” by way of “Law & Order,” with the four principals narrating their stories in flashback as the police, led by a giant mustachioed frog named Nicky Flippers (a dapper David Ogden Stiers), try to piece together what really happened.
No one turns out to be exactly what they seem, least of all sweet-and-fuzzy Granny, an extreme-sports aficionado who says things like “You ready to get spanked?” and “Fo shizzle!” Other characters have been similarly and amusingly contemporized: The Woodsman, a chubby Teutonic fruitcake who drives a schnitzel truck, is a down-on-his-luck actor, while the Wolf is a roving reporter investigating a rash of baked-goods-related thefts in the forest.
Red herself reps a much tougher, spunkier version of the classically naive heroine, as well as the primary target of the script’s hip, anachronistic sensibility — she may deliver baskets full of goodies, but she also knows kung fu, packs pepper spray and rides a bike. Still, that doesn’t keep her from singing a saccharine ditty about wanting to leave her humdrum life in the forest, or from being molded to look as cute, round and dough-faced as is possible on a digital 3-D palette.
Colorful and well-animated but seldom eye-popping, “Hoodwinked!” is a visually modest piece of work — a less damaging factor, in the long run, than the cut-rate feel of some of its humor and action sequences. While not saturated with pop-culture references in the vein of “Shrek” or “Shark Tale,” the dialogue often affects the same smugly knowing attitude so beloved by recent CGI pics. Red’s martial-arts prowess is trotted out far too often, as if the sight of a cartoon character performing karate chops were inherently hilarious.
The flashback threads do eventually come together in coherent (though completely silly) fashion, as misunderstandings are cleared up and the mastermind behind the bakery burglaries is revealed.
Scribe-helmers Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards and Tony Leech all served multiple duties on the project, with Leech editing, Todd Edwards writing the songs and Cory Edwards voicing the role of Twitchy, a hyper-caffeinated squirrel. Top-notch voice cast also includes Andy Dick as an ingratiatingly creepy bunny and Benjy Gaither as a singing goat who steals the show every minute he’s onscreen.