Everyone thinks they know the story of Little Red Riding Hood (voiced by Anne Hathaway), but do they really? There's more to the story than you might think, as you can see when the police are called after a disturbance at the cottage of Granny (Glenn Close). It seems as though Red was delivering cakes to her grandmother when she noticed that all was not well, especially as the old lady in bed was in fact a mask-wearing Wolf (Patrick Warburton). His disguise revealed, the Wolf started chasing Red around the cottage, when suddenly, not only did a tied up Granny burst out of the closet, but a huge Woodsman (James Belushi) smashed through the window wielding an axe. So what was actually going on?
Ever since Shrek was released the world of popular animation was flooded with wisecracking, computer animated characters designed to appeal to all ages, and Hoodwinked looked to be very much in that tradition, particularly as its whole gag is a reinvented fairy tale. However, as successful as the smart alecky Shrek was, it apparently considered medieval fast food restaurants the height of sophisticated wit, which didn't make everyone laugh, despite what the hype would have you believe. So expectations were not high for a film that, judging by its trailer, slavishly imitated this form and with less polished animation into the bargain.
That said, although the technique is on an obviously lower budget, in places resembling Hoodwinked's own computer game spin off rather than a work in its own right, those who gave it a chance were pleasantly surprised. It may have taken a wise after the fact approach to its traditional tale, but it did so with affection and a refreshing, breezy quality that made for an improvement on Shrek and its studied over-calculation. Essentially, it's Little Red Riding Hood seen through the filter of Rashomon, where the four characters involved in the disturbance - Red, Granny, the Wolf and the Woodsman - have four very different explanations of what happened.
The man, well, frog, leading this investigation is gentleman private detective Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), patterned after Nick Charles from The Thin Man films, complete with pet terrier. He is there to put all the pieces of the plot together when the police are shown to be lacking, and interviews each of the suspects in turn. The main scheme that the police think this lot are involved with is the crimes of the "Goodie Bandit", a mystery figure who is up to no good and shutting down all the confectioners, snack sellers and bakers in the forest by stealing their all-important recipes. Could one of them be the criminal mastermind?
The chief suspect has to be Granny, who produces her own line of cakes, but before we reach her explanation there are the other three stories to hear, all blithely packed with irrelevancies that become clear later on. Red dreams of leaving the forest and breaking out on her own, but for the time being she delivers the goods for Granny. In her version, events follow in the way that we're more accustomed to, with the Wolf menacing the little girl and Red foiling his plans. But in the Wolf's version, he reveals himself to be a reporter who thinks he has tracked down the Bandit, and the actions he takes that on the surface appear to be threatening are in fact misunderstandings (a growl he gives when first advancing out of the bushes turns out to be his empty stomach rumbling, that sort of thing). Scripted by its directors, Hoodwinked may not be the funniest of cartoons, but it is inventive and there are genuine laughs and good humour along the way. Music by John Mark Painter.
[Momentum's DVD extras include a commentary from the directors, deleted and extended scenes, music video, a how to film guide and the trailer.]