There are two sides to every story, the saying goes, but in this super-Rashomon-meets-Shrek CGI contraption there are no less than five. Writer-directors Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, and Tony Leech have jumped on a derisive contemporaneous bandwagon, replacing the shock value in the classic kindermärchen “Little Red Riding Hood” with snarkability. Red (Anne Hathaway) arrives at her grandmother’s house and goes through the what-big-ears-you-have motions with Wolf (Patrick Warburton) before a hog-tied Granny (Glenn Close) falls out of the closet and an ax-wielding Woodsman (Jim Belushi) comes crashing through a window. A certain “Goody Bandit” has been stealing recipes from the local goody shops and all fingers point to Wolf, but the investigation conducted by froggy detective Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) not only clears the big bad canine, but Red, Granny, and Woodsman too.
The title of the film is an enigma. Since no character in the story is every actually framed by the real bandit—whose identity should be obvious from the film’s very first “take”—are the filmmakers blaming their audience for consuming “Little Red Riding Hood” at face value all these years? If so, they forget the many illuminations of this folktale over the centuries that have complicated its meaning—often using a Freudian minefield of taboos—without necessarily casting the wolf as an innocent. (Here he’s a reporter for a local newspaper, Granny an extreme sports competitor, and Woodsman an aspiring actor.) Hoodwinked is definitely a product of its time. It seems to exist for people who’ve always wanted to see Wile E. Coyote catch the Road Runner (or those—given the flat, cotton-mouthed humor—who prefer The Colbert Report to The Daily Show), which is a reasonable enough ambition if the filmmakers actually looked beyond their gimmicky premise or seemed interested in addressing spectator frustration.
The narrative’s shifting perspectives provides little pleasure—we’re meant to be surprised whenever a revelation in one character’s testimony clears up a misconception in another witness’s claim (Wolf wasn’t screaming at Red, he simply got his tail stuck in a camera!)—and even less laughs. (Twitchy, a furry little thing who assists in Wolf’s newspaper sleuthing, steals the show but still feels like a sanitized knock-off of the Gonads and Strife squirrel.) It certainly deserves to be funnier given that it’s smart enough not to fall back on random pop-cultural clutter to convey its ideas of duplicity, and while the shoestring sight and sound is as off-putting as it is endearing (that computer-game techno score especially), the filmmakers could have done themselves a lot of good by following the tradition of Demy, Cocteau, Argento, and Svankmajer and not the trail of breadcrumbs left behind by the heinous Shrek films.