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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hoodwinked

After last week's deadly serious outings to see Munich and Hostel, I could hardly wait to get to the Essex Outlet Cinemas this Friday to check out something funny. I needed a good laugh, and the new animated feature Hoodwinked seemed like the perfect choice. I always wished my life had been animated. Oh, there was a time in the 1970s when I discovered certain mushrooms in a field near where I lived that made it seem that small birds sung and danced showtunes around my head and that forest creatures talked to me in rhyme, but when the effects wore off I was pretty much stuck in my crappy "everyday" life, going to work with a HUGE hangover and the dread of realizing that I would never be brought birthday gifts by three fairies in multi-hued chiffon, at least not until I moved to San Francisco about a decade later, but that is a story for a different time.

At first Josh, who you may remember I described last week as "suave and debonair," showed a decidedly different tact this time around as he was skeptical of my choice at seeing what is a movie most would assume is marketed for the playpen set. Thankfully Rob, another of the easy-on-the-eyes staff at the Essex Outlet Cinemas, still has enough youthful hopes and dreams to believe that some things can still be good despite the preconceptions of the art form. So there. Harrrumph!

I grabbed my swimming pool-sized refillable diet Pepsi (I heard a rumor recently that if you collect one hundred gi-normous sized cups Pepsi Co. will pay for your bladder transplant surgery) and my cheesy-flavored popcorn and wandered into Theater 2 for my afternoon of escape. Calgon, Take me away!

So this turned out to be a very complicated film based on a simple enough idea. The premise
begins with an unknown thief stealing all the sweets and secret recipes of the cookie and candy makers throughout this land of make believe. Apparently everybody, animal and human alike, must be hypoglycemic because the world revolves around sugar treats, and with these gone, the economy is collapsing and everybody is closing up and moving out. Even the Muffin Man has gone bust. The only one still baking is Granny Plunkett (voiced in crotchety perfection by Glenn Close), and Little Red Riding Hood (Disney alumni Anne Hathaway), or "Red" for short, is her delivery girl. Naturally then suspicion falls on why Granny's operation has not been hit, and soon the "traditional" story of LRRH is turned topsy-turvy as we find the police interviewing Red, Granny, the Wolf (howlingly funny Patrick Warburton), and the Woodsman (cheekily stupid Jim Belushi) from the original tale to find out who, if any of them, are responsible for this series of burglaries.

What we learn along the way is that nobody is what they seem. Red is a karate champion who longs to break-out of fairy tale land for bigger things. The Wolf claims to be an undercover investigative reporter working the story along with his hyperactive friend, a
squirrel named Twitchy (Director Cory Edwards) that nobody can understand, Granny is a secret extreme sports enthusiast and Iron Man Cage Wrestling Champ in addition to practicing parasailor, surfer, and tri-athlete, and the Woodsman, well, he is really just Kurt, an out-of-work actor rehearsing for a commercial for Paul Bunyan Bunion Cream and trying to "find his inner Paul Bunyan" in the forest.

On the case is a unique police force to be sure. Detective Bill Stork (Anthony Anderson) and Chief Ted Grizzly (Xzibit) are assisted by Private Eye Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers, channelling his inner amphibian David Niven).

Also tied into the case are Boingo the Bunny (Andy Dick), Woolworth, a Mafioso sheep (Chazz Palminteri, natch), and my personal favorite, a singing goat named Japeth (Benjy Gaither).

This flick is definitely no Shrek. It is a big, old gooey mess of a movie, with action all over the place and most of it based on really bad puns and sight gags that will amuse adults more than children. The animation is far from Pixar quality, but it has a Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius simplicity to it that is not overly obnoxious in its' garishness. The writing's the thing, however, and like a wacky version of Kurosawa's Rashômon, the various tellings of the tale all pile together to explain a larger story that makes perfect sense when viewed as a whole. The kids probably won't get that part, but the grown-ups will appreciate it for the cleverness involved and for some of the throw-away lines that made me laugh out loud. When Boingo, for example, first meets Red Riding Hood, he asks the obvious "What's with all the red? You must be an 'Autumn' or something," he concludes. Later when the police are trying to figure out something Twitchy is saying Chief Grizzly dismisses the squirrel with contempt. "Aw, he's a loon anyway." To which his Detective Stork righfully objects "Hey, hey, hey! My mother was half-Loon!" It's pun-tastic!

If you made it out to the Essex Outlet Cinemas for Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, then I think you'll find Hoodwinked right up your alley.

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