‘Hoodwinked Too!’ doesn’t come close to the magic of Pixar, lacking the character development needed to make the film truly memorable
By: Roxana Hadadi
The entire animated genre is living under Pixar’s shadow. Given the amazing success of “Toy Story 3” last year, when the Pixar creation received universal acclaim and $1 billion in ticket sales, it’s obvious that any 2011 animated flick is going to be compared to Woody and co.’s romp. “Rio,” “Rango,” “Gnomeo and Juliet,” “Hop” – they’ve all made tons of money, but do they come close to “Toy Story 3’s” lovely message about loyalty and friendship? Well, no.
And does “Hoodwinked Too!: Hood vs. Evil” compare, either? Well, no.
That’s not to say “Hoodwinked Too!” is terrible – like “Shrek,” it has successful moments geared specifically toward adult audiences, while providing the right kind of goofy humor that’s a hit with kids. Despite being a sequel, though, the characters lack depth; Red, her grandmother Granny, Wolf and the squirrel Twitchy haven’t grown much since we saw them five years ago in “Hoodwinked!”. Red still yearns to come into her own, Granny is still wise and all-knowing, Wolf is still cocky and bombastic and Twitchy is still … well, twitchy.
They’re thrown into another scenario that forces them to work together, but “Hoodwinked!” was interesting in that it changed a story we all know, the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, and made it more thrilling. “Hoodwinked Too!” gives us funny looks at current problems like child obesity and other well-known stories, like Hansel and Gretel, but it’s a formula that ultimately shortchanges us as viewers when it can’t make the characters more than just sketches from a computer.
The story begins with Red (voiced in the first film by Anne Hathaway, now by Hayden Panettiere), who since the first film has been training with the Sisters of the Hood, a secret society Granny (Glenn Close) is part of. With Red away, Granny, Wolf (Patrick Warburton) and Twitchy (Cory Edwards) are still working for HEA, the Happily Ever After Agency, and saving children – but things aren’t going great. Wolf thinks he can do everything himself, ignoring Granny’s warnings about patience and well-thought-out planning, and his cockiness gets them in a bind: During a mission to rescue Hansel (Bill Hader) and Gretel (Amy Poehler) from the witch Verushka (Joan Cusack), Wolf messes everything up, causing Granny to get kidnapped.
Finding and saving Granny becomes an emergency priority for HEA, meaning Red, Wolf and Twitchy have to put their differences aside to figure out where she is. Red wants to use more straight police work and investigative skills to find out clues; Wolf insists on using a variety of disguises (often with long white beards) to con information out of people. Despite completely disagreeing over the best methods, Red and Wolf have to tolerate each other for Granny – who is being blackmailed by Verushka into cooking a chocolate truffle that will give whoever eats it immense power. Whether it’s Verushka working on her own or being commanded by someone else, though, poses another problem for HEA as they try to save the world.
“Hoodwinked Too!” isn’t that long, clocking in at the average hour-and-a-half mark, but its brisk pace falters in the second half, dragging along as Red, Wolf and their allies encounter problem after problem – giant bugs, evil pigs, etc. – while trying to save Granny. The character development pops up every now and then, with lines about how Red wants to grow up and Wolf understands that he needs to control his confidence, but the film can’t conclude its plot in a solid way – and, of course, manages to leave things open for another sequel, too. Its best moments are its nods to other films, like “Silence of the Lambs” and “Star Wars,” and its jokes for parents, lines like “The ‘60s are kind of a blur,” from Granny and “Rachael Ray’s the devil!” from the Sisters of the Hood. But there are blatant missteps, too: An ogre Red has to beat up is obviously a black caricature (it likes chicken, speaks in a horrible accent and sassily tells off Red), and Twitchy’s playboy ways seem out of place in a film that otherwise contains no sexual or romantic content.
The film is rated PG – maybe because of the scene with Twitchy and his numerous girlfriends? – and contains typical cartoon violence, like explosions, martial arts and a creepy green mask worn by Verushka. There’s also a running gag where mountain goat Japeth is continuously the victim of terrible accidents, like being stuck in a giant’s backside; lots of kids were grossed out by that one. The film is also available in 3-D, but you don’t need it – I honestly can’t think one of one scene in “Hoodwinked Too!” that extraordinarily benefits from the technology.
Overall, “Hoodwinked Too!” has all the right elements for a somewhat enjoyable animated film: Anthropomorphic animals, sly jokes for parents, creative edits to a familiar story. But what it’s lacking is real character development for Red, Granny, Wolf and Twitchy, and without that, your affection for those in the “Hood vs. Evil” fight will melt faster than any super truffle.