Looking for something a little like VeggieTales, only a little more grown-up and a little more mainstream? Looking for something a little like Shrek, but without the innuendo and other kinds of adolescent humor? Either way, Hoodwinked may be the movie for you. Like those other films, it's a wacky, computer-animated riff on classic stories, with a few decidedly modern twists and a handful of pop-culture references. It's also safe for most kids.

It begins with Little Red Riding Hood (voice of Anne Hathaway) paying a visit to Grandma's house and finding a wolf in Granny's bed. In this version of the story, however, the Wolf (Patrick Warburton) is wearing a paper Granny-shaped mask as part of his disguise—and when Red figures out who he is, she exclaims, "What do I have to do, get a restraining order?" But then, within moments, a tied-up Granny (Glenn Close) comes bursting into the room, and so does a screaming, axe-wielding Woodsman (James Belushi).

Red (voiced by Anne Hathaway) is the central figure in this spoof on the fairy tale

Red (voiced by Anne Hathaway) is the central figure in this spoof on the fairy tale

The police arrive on the scene and declare Granny's house a crime scene. The cops—three of whom are, literally, pigs—are ready to drag everyone down to the police station. It seems there is reason to believe that everyone, and not just the Wolf, might be guilty of something. But then Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers)—a tall frog with a pencil-thin moustache and very long, skinny legs—turns up and decides to interview each of the suspects individually, like Agatha Christie's famed detective, Hercule Poirot.

And so, the events leading up to that fateful moment in Granny's house are told from four different points of view. It takes a while for Hoodwinked to hit its stride, but once all this set-up is complete, it's actually kind of fun to see how the four stories cast different lights on the same events, or—more often—how each story fills a gap in the story or stories that came before it. At first, the film may feel like an exercise in purely absurdist storytelling, but after a while, you are impressed by how well the pieces fit together.

It would be difficult to describe what unfolds in any detail without spoiling the mystery, or some of the surprises. But suffice to say that Red, as the girl with the hood likes to be called, is a spunky kid who can easily take care of herself when crossing paths with furry predators. And the Wolf has an amusingly dry sense of humor (when the cops ask what he does for a living, he deadpans, "I'm a shepherd") that contrasts nicely with his hyperactive squirrel friend Twitchy. And Granny, it turns out, has been leading a secret life.

Article continues below
There's something a little suspicious about Granny these days

There's something a little suspicious about Granny these days

Along the way, they meet a gaggle of amusing characters, including a talkative, seemingly insecure rabbit named Boingo (Andy Dick) and a streetwise, greased-hair sheep informant named Woolworth (Chazz Palminteri). But the most memorable of the bunch is Japeth (Benjy Gaither, son of gospel stars Bill and Gloria), a hillbilly goat who claims he always sings when he means to talk because of a spell put on him by a mountain witch.

It's fun to see how the movie plays with certain cinematic conventions. Red says she began her day by riding her bicycle, singing happy songs, and getting a lift across the river from some friendly hummingbirds. The song she sings is an expression of her state of mind and, for the most part, has no objective reality—we hear musicians and back-up singers, but they're not really "there." However, when this part of the story is told again from the Wolf's point of view, we see Red riding her bike in the distance, and we also hear her song play faintly in the distance, too—including those musicians and back-up singers!

Speaking of the music, fans of Fleming & John—the husband-wife pop duo who made their debut on a Steve Taylor tribute album in the mid-1990s—may be pleased to know that John Mark Painter wrote the film's synthy score and a couple of songs, while Fleming K. McWilliams lent her talents to "The Schnitzel Song," a ridiculously upbeat tune sung by the dim-witted Woodsman as he leads a pack of yodeling children through the forest.

Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), doing his best Poirot impression

Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), doing his best Poirot impression

The bulk of the songs, however, were written by director Cory Edwards and his co-director brother Todd (director of the Gen-X romantic comedy Chillicothe, which played at the 1999 Sundance festival), and they range from Red's happy theme "Great Big World"—a perky 1970s-style anthem sung by Hathaway that could easily have been sung by the Brady kids—to the more melancholic "Red Is Blue," sung by Ben Folds.

Cory Edwards happens to be a Christian stand-up comedian and former host of Reasons to Believe with Hugh Ross. Edwards' other co-director, Tony Leech, co-starred in the Petra Beyond Belief video in 1990, and wrote for a TV show hosted by Carman a few years later. So, Hoodwinked is the work of Christians—but this is not a "Christian movie" any more than Napoleon Dynamite was a "Mormon movie." It's just a fun little film.

Hoodwinked does have its flaws. Some of the gags and references are a little out of date—does anyone still use expressions like "fo shizzle"?—and, after Red, the Wolf, Granny and the Woodsman have told their stories and the detective has solved the mystery that brought them together, the film shifts gears and becomes a by-the-numbers showdown involving an evil mastermind, some henchmen, a secret lair, and an explosive race against time.

Article continues below
The dim-witted Woodsman (James Belushi) leads yodeling children through the forest

The dim-witted Woodsman (James Belushi) leads yodeling children through the forest

The animation is also rather crude. Computers can now make any film a roller-coaster ride, but it still takes time and hard work to make characters come to life, and the facial expressions in this low-budget cartoon are rather stiff and limited. In its simplicity, this film is to Pixar what the old hand-drawn Charlie Brown cartoons were to Disney.

Then again, there's something to be said for keeping the special effects out of the way and letting audiences enjoy the humor for what it is. Hoodwinked isn't a classic for the ages, but it's suitable entertainment for audiences of any age.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Granny has been keeping a secret from Red. Why do you think she did this? What secrets have you kept from people? Is there a side to you that other people would be surprised, maybe even shocked, to discover? Is it wrong to want to project a particular image?

  2. Do the different stories told by Red, the Wolf, Granny and the Woodsman undermine each other, support each other, or a little of both? What does this film say about the importance of getting more than one person's point of view? How do Red, Granny, and even the Wolf learn new things about each other? Does the Woodsman learn anything?

  3. What do you make of the way that fairy tales are told these days? Do we modernize them too much? Do we lose something by treating ogres and wolves like people, instead of archetypal bad guys? How does this affect the way we treat the symbolic use of animals and other creatures in, say, the Bible?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Hoodwinked is rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements, including explosions, a car crash, and some karate-style fights, all of which are played for humorous effect. A person is dropped off a cliff, and a girl is kidnapped and trapped inside a cable car rigged to explode—but they both make their way out. Animals make menacing faces. A roller-coaster ride gone wrong sends two people flying into the air—but they come out okay. One character utters a very mild euphemism for a profanity ("What the schnitzel?"), and another makes a passing reference to God ("As God is my witness, you will learn to speak").

Article continues below
What Other Critics Are Saying
compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet

from Film Forum, 01/19/06

"My, what big box office receipts you have, Grandmother!" "The better to ensure a sequel, my dear!"

The weekend almost had a fairy tale ending, as Hoodwinked!, writer/director Cory Edwards' fairy tale comedy, took a close second-place to Glory Road at the box office. Hoodwinked! earned almost $17 million, turning the Weinstein Company into an unexpected heavy-hitter in the competitive world of feature animation.

Kids were laughing, and even more surprising, their parents were laughing all the way through this inventive, fast-paced caper. Hoodwinked! dismantles the traditional tale of Little Red Riding Hood, uncovering the various untold stories behind each major player—Red (voiced by Anne Hathaway), the Wolf (Patrick Warburton), the Woodsman (Jim Belushi), and Granny (Glenn Close). A host of new characters play memorable supporting roles, including the funniest mountain goat you've ever seen (Benjy Gaither, son of the gospel music legends Bill and Gloria Gaither), a grizzly policeman (Xzibit), a hyperactive squirrel (Cory Edwards), and a frog who should get his own series on PBS' "Mystery!" (David Ogden Stiers).

Box office analysts had predicted a showdown between the basketball movie Glory Road and the Queen Latifah comedy Last Holiday. But now you can call Edwards' film "The Little Red Riding Hood that Could." Edwards, already working on a sequel, is something of a pioneer, as a Christian working in the world of big screen animation—as Peter T. Chattaway notes in his review at Christianity Today Movies, Edwards is also known for his stand-up comedy and for hosting Reasons to Believe with Hugh Ross.

Edwards recently told me that Looney Tunes cartoons were a big influence on him and his co-writers, Todd Edwards and Tony Leech. "People keep asking how you write for adults and for kids, and I still haven't figured out a good answer. All we did was write what we thought was funny." He points out that Chuck Jones and Pixar's John Lasseter have claimed the same thing. "We just write for us. I don't know if that means we're a little bit childish, but we wrote what was funny for us. And I think kids are faster and more quick-witted than we sometimes think. I've written kids' 'product,' but I never write down to children. Even when there's a few jokes they can't quite grasp, they're glad to be a part of it. They're glad to be laughing with the adults."

Article continues below

Edwards, who said he "never thought that my first film would be animated," had also served as producer on Chillicothe, a 1999 independent, live-action film directed by his brother Todd which won favorable reviews at festivals. He also created Wobots, a computer-animated sci-fi adventure for kids released on DVD. Hoodwinked! has made him think about more animated projects, and he describes the experience as "a control freak's dream. 'Can we move the sun over there? Can we delete these trees?'" But he confesses, "I can't wait to get actors in front of cameras again, after being in a room with computers for three years."

Christian film critics are especially impressed at how the film entertains without stooping to crass humor.

"It is a rare movie that is truly funny for both kids and their parents," says Stephen McGarvey (Crosswalk). "Yet the comical Hoodwinked is a surprisingly hysterical offering after a year of underwhelming computer animated films. [The movie] … provides a clever bit of comic storytelling while steering clear of the innuendo or crudity common in even children's movies these days."

Bob Smithouser (Plugged In) says, "Hoodwinked is clean, clever and fast-paced. … [U]nlike Shrek's shotgun tweaking of all tales fairy, this witty CG feature deconstructs a single fable and does it without resorting to crude language, double entendres or bathroom humor. Furthermore, I didn't feel like I was doing penance sitting through it a second time with my kids. Older, more sophisticated viewers will appreciate the story for its intricate architecture, snappy dialogue, outstanding voice work … and subtle cultural references."

Mainstream critics aren't quite as enthusiastic. Some are discrediting it for not living up to the animation standards of a Pixar or Dreamworks picture, but this was a hurriedly made, lower-budget feature from an fledgling animation studio. The fact that the film is consistently funny, clever, and entertaining in spite of its B-grade CGI makes it a worthwhile time at the movies.

from Film Forum, 01/26/06

Andrew Coffin (World) says, "Hoodwinked, despite some surface similarities, is no Shrek, and that's at least part of the reason why it is one of the most delightful surprises of the new year."

Our Rating
2½ Stars - Fair
Average Rating
(not rated yet)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG (for some mild action and thematic elements)
Directed By
Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, Tony Leech
Run Time
1 hour 20 minutes
Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Patrick Warburton
Theatre Release
January 13, 2006 by the Weinstein Company
Browse All Movie Reviews By: