The first Hoodwinked movie (released in 2005) was a charming sleeper among animated features. The animation was second-rate, but the cute and clever premise overcame that, depicting the varying perspectives from the classic Red Riding Hood story while meshing it with modern elements. Several Christians were also involved in creating the film, making it wholesome fun—something that could easily stand alongside the VeggieTales series in your home library.
The sequel is not as good, but then few sequels are. The creative team behind the first film has reunited for Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, including most of the voice cast—though Hayden Panettiere fills in for Anne Hathaway as Red Riding Hood. Even the same writers are back on board, though Mike Disa steps into the director's chair this time. So it's not really a matter of newcomers hijacking a franchise that undermines this movie, but knowing when to leave well enough alone.
The story is basically Shrek meets Kung Fu Panda and The Incredibles—a convoluted mishmash of ideas from other successful animated features, blended together into a garbage soda with far too many pop culture references for its own good (and most of them too adult for kids).
The returning characters now all work for the Happily Ever After agency (HEA) run by that dapper frog Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers). The Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton), his squirrely sidekick Twitchy (co-writer Cory Edwards), and Granny (Glenn Close) are on assignment to rescue Hansel and Gretel (Bill Hader and Amy Poehler) from the clutches of Verushka the Witch (Joan Cusack). But their Mission: Impossiblestyled rescue backfires and leads to Granny's capture during Verushka's escape with the children.
Meanwhile, Red is training at the Society of Hoods, where Granny once learned her martial arts and acrobatics. There she learns that the Society's secret recipe for a chocolate truffle has been stolen—a dessert that bestows the eater with invulnerability. It's up to Red to track it down while learning what the secret ingredient is.
This leads Red and the Wolf to forge an uneasy alliance through the HEA. Their mission to rescue Granny, the kids, and the recipe leads them to a confrontation with The Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk, depicted as a mobster with a nightclub atop a metallic, stalk-like structure. It'll also force a rematch between the Wolf and three gun-toting pig mercenaries (two of them voiced by Cheech & Chong). And there's a startling revelation about the real culprits in this case, shamefully revealed in the movie's trailers and commercials.
Hoodwinked Too! is one of those animated features that shows a complete disregard for the laws of physics—and not in a funny way like the old Road Runner cartoons. Here, motorcycles do somersaults, characters levitate indefinitely to make karate kicks, and anybody can catch up with anyone at anytime if the story calls for it. Yes, it's a cartoon, but sloppily staged.
And lazy. Few animated features rely this heavily on pop culture references. The thing is, references aren't that funny in themselves (evidenced by awful flicks like Epic Movie, Date Movie, and Scary Movie). Context—how they're used—is at least as important. I'm sure the filmmakers wanted to throw some bones to the adults taking their kids to see this, and I'm also sure the kids won't understand the more mature references. Nevertheless, it seems odd for a movie aimed at children to reference Kill Bill, Goodfellas, The Silence of the Lambs, Die Hard, and Scarface, among others.
Such references are very clichéd too: "Hasta la vista, baby … Say hello to my little friend … Yippie-kay-yay … What do you mean I'm funny?" Even worse is the script's reliance on other dated and worn-out phrases, like "Oh, no you didn't," "I got served," "awkward," and even "jiggy." Gee, that's really swell of the writers to be totally cool like that.
Or how about the trite messages shoehorned into the plot? Believe in yourself, never give up, cooperation—nuggets of wisdom from Sesame Street. I applaud a ridiculous scene involving a train precariously balancing on top of a skyscraper because it perfectly depicts forgiveness and reconciliation. But aside from that, the writers' lack of creativity is at times astonishing.
The animation is nothing special either. Maybe the filmmakers wanted continuity between movies, but this one doesn't look much better than the first one. It doesn't look bad, per se, but it's certainly behind the curve, and the transfer to 3-D is completely pointless (beyond charging viewers an extra $3).
Still, there's an appealing overall goofiness, particularly in the details and comedic timing. Hoodwinked Too rarely offers laugh-out-loud moments, but at least it's occasionally amusing—particularly bits involving the over-caffeinated Twitchy and the return of Japeth the Goat (voiced by Benjy Gaither, son of gospel singers Bill and Gloria).
Seems like the filmmakers tried too hard to appeal to both young and older, resulting in a movie too inane for adults in story, yet too mature for young children in content. It's little more than a derivative cartoon. Ever notice how some people are so good at what they do that they make it look easy, to the point where imitators try the same and pale by comparison? Hoodwinked Too is like that, competing with films by Pixar and Dreamworks—not to mention its predecessor—and ultimately falling short.Discussion starters
- Why is the Wolf frustrated with Red Riding Hood at the start of this movie? Why does he keep trying to do everything himself? How does his perspective change later in the story?
- Why does Red mistrust the Wolf at first? What personal hang-up is she wrestling with, as revealed in her training with the troll? How does her perspective change as the story progresses?
- How are Red and the Wolf similar in their mistrust? How do they reconcile their differences? Explain how the scene involving the balancing train perfectly illustrates forgiveness and reconciliation.
The Family CornerFor parents to consider
Hoodwinked Too! is rated PG for some mild rude humor, language and action. If your family was alright with Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and The Incredibles (all PG), they'll probably be okay with this, as the mixture of comedy and superhero action is generally the same. However, there are many adult pop culture references, including Kill Bill, Goodfellas, Silence of the Lambs, Scarface, and Die Hard—all generally harmless and over the heads of young kids. Small children will find the witch scary at the start of the film. A Star Trek parody references McCoy's use of "Dammit, Jim." There are a couple of effeminate characters. And there are sideways references to farts and poop, plus a crotch shot gag.
Photos © The Weinstein Company
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