Once upon a time, fairy tales were told with beauty, wit, simplicity and charm, a tradition that seems increasingly a thing of the past in “Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil.” Less a movie than an ill-advised lab experiment in which classic children’s stories are injected with Bond-movie stylings, inane wisecracks and martial-arts mayhem, this manic misfire takes storybook revisionism to ever more irritating ends. Shrill enough to warrant complimentary earplugs along with 3D glasses, the long-gestating, ancillary-friendly sequel could nonetheless match or exceed the $110 million worldwide gross achieved by its rather more bearable 2005 predecessor.
It hasn’t been a great season onscreen for Red Riding Hood, first subjected to the clunky revisionism of Catherine Hardwicke’s recent live-action fantasy and now the migraine-inducing wisecrackery of this toon offering, which was completed in 2009 but held up by a legal dispute over funding and release strategy between Kanbar Entertainment and the Weinstein Co.
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Having been subjected to a “Rashomon”-esque deconstruction in the original “Hoodwinked,” spunky Red (voiced by Hayden Panettiere, taking over for Anne Hathaway) is now undergoing heavy physical training at a far-away Eastern enclave run by the fabled Sisters of the Hood — a moniker delivered, lest we miss the punchline, by a black woman with an enormous afro. As racial humor goes, that’s fairly innocuous compared with the filmmakers’ decision to pattern a hideous troll (voiced by David Alan Grier) after a flamboyant African-American stereotype.
In Red’s absence, her ever-resourceful Granny (Glenn Close), the benign but disgruntled Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton) and their over-caffeinated squirrel sidekick Twitchy (Cory Edwards) have been busy performing fairy-tale rescue operations for the Happily Ever After Agency. The trio’s latest mission is to save chubby Teuton tots Hansel and Gretel (amusingly voiced by Bill Hader and Amy Poehler) from the clutches of the wicked witch Verushka (Joan Cusack), though in the first of several narrative switcheroos, the hag’s true target turns out to be Granny and her noggin full of supernatural culinary secrets.
At this point, “Hoodwinked Too!” bogs down in a maze of puns and movie quotations, elbowing tots and adults so aggressively that less hardy viewers may want to check for cracked ribs. First Red and her friends must climb a beanstalk and infiltrate a chintzy nightclub presided over by a “Goodfellas”-channeling giant (Brad Garrett) before descending into a madhouse basement to interrogate Boingo the Bunny (Andy Dick), whose first words here are “Hello, Clarice.”
“Scarface,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “King Kong” are only a few of the other titles haphazardly alluded to by the screenplay (credited to four writers), which attempts to crossbreed Grimm fables with action-pic riffs, heist-thriller tropes and relentlessly referential yuks, though helmer Mike Disa conjures none of the basic competence or finesse of even the weaker entries in the similarly themed “Shrek” franchise. One of the reasons the nonstop riffing becomes so wearisome is that “Hoodwinked Too!” seems to be not merely catering to shortened attention spans but actively creating them; even at 86 minutes, it’s an enervating experience.
While the pic’s Manila-based animation team delivers a more colorful and ambitious visual palette than that of the comparably low-fi “Hoodwinked,” the results still look cheap and at times compositionally ill judged, especially when compared with recent studio-polished efforts. Stereoscopic conversion affords little more here than a few dynamic angles and scenic soaring-through-clouds shots.
More peevish than plucky, Red Riding Hood makes a visually and vocally unappealing heroine; credit the ace voicework of Close, Warburton and Cusack for the degree to which any of the personalities onscreen succeed in engaging the viewer’s attention. Musical choices are as unsubtle as the numerous gags in which tangential characters are squashed by falling objects or trampled underfoot.