I was approached by the father of a four year old this week, who demanded to know why Hollywood did not offer a single G-rated movie to stir-crazed families over the long Christmas holiday. While I felt I didnít deserve all the blame, I also didnít have a good answer for him. Studios are generally afraid that a G rating will drive away less-than-wholesome teenagers. On the other hand, a G-rating ensures a virtual monopoly. Neither myself, my fellow pre-school father or our respective four year olds would have waited for the reviews to come in. The G would have made the decision for us.
Now in the dead of January comes the new film Hoodwinked. Itís not from Disney. Itís not from Pixar. Itís not from DreamWorks. Itís the animation debut of a man who made a fortune selling vodka. And while muscling into the market, producer Maurice Kanbar and creative team have clearly enjoyed themselves in the production of this movie. Both parents and children will probably notice.
Hoodwinked is not a G-rated film, though the viewer must rack his brain to remember anything in the brisk 80 minutes that would have challenged the delicate sensibilities of anyone. The writer/director team of Cory and Todd Edwards have taken the classic fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood and given it a satirical taste of both The Usual Suspects and Kurosawa. Let this not scare you or your youngest away. These guys also understand the simplest rule of kids fare: squirrels are always funny. They unfold the story of Little Red Riding Hood from four different perspectives: Redís, Grannyís, The Wolfís and The Hunterís, which in addition to being a clever device is also a nice little lesson in jurisprudence. If there was any danger in foisting a non-linear multi-perspective story on children, my four and three quarter year old had no complaints. And my two and a half year old certainly liked the squirrel.
For the much-older me, I appreciated Hoodwinked being clever without the snark. It has an edge without the dreaded attitude that often comes with it. If it steals from other work, it steals wisely. Like the Simpsons. Which come to think of it did an episode much like Hoodwinked a few years back. Anne Hathaway voices a wise beyond her years Red, and nice supporting voiceover work comes from Glen Close, Patrick Warburton, David Ogden Stiers and Andy Dick as a grandmother, wolf, frog and rabbit respectively. I was also struck by the original music for the film, which was just plainÖnice. It was appropriate in the context of the film and perhaps even something a teenager might download on his or her iPod in the cover of darkness.
As for the animation: the sophisticated nerd may notice that Hoodwinked does not raise the bar, and in its replication of running water it evokes a more primitive era, dating back perhaps to the the second Clinton administration. If that kind of thing gets in your way of appreciating the movie, you probably have more problems than the movie.
Hoodwinked is the best kids film out there, and would be even if it didnít own a monopoly on the G or G-like market.
© 2006 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 1/4/06
U.S. - 2005