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Chuckles aside, 'Hoodwinked' lacks bite

Ever wonder what would have happened had Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon) and Jay Ward ("Rocky and Bullwinkle") collaborated on a movie?

Hoodwinked might just provide you with the answer. Yes, it's a pretty bizarre combination. And yes, the film doesn't always live up to its twisted promise, too often straining to be odd just for odd's sake and relying on jokes we've heard before.

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Still, a film that places the greatest of all Japanese directors and possibly the most irreverent mind in animation history in the same thought stream should not be dismissed lightly. Especially when it makes you chuckle as much as this one.

Notice I didn't say laugh. Hoodwinked is too derivative for that, too obvious, too labored. (There's a reason those old Bullwinkle cartoons ran only for a few minutes.)

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Hoodwinked is the story of Little Red Riding Hood. No, it's actually the story of what happens after Little Red Riding Hood and her infamous encounter with the wolf, as cops and detectives come to the crime scene to figure out what happened.

Everyone tells a different version of what happened. Red (voiced by Anne Hathaway) insists she only did what any grandma-loving young girl who's also a martial-arts expert would do. The Wolf (Patrick Warburton) insists he's just the innocent victim of a gross deception. Grandma (Glenn Close), who it turns out was locked in the closet the whole time, has a secret of her own she's desperate to protect.

Turns out there's been a rash of burglaries in the fairy-tale woods, most involving mouth-watering recipes. Police Chief Grizzly (Xzibit), Detective Stork (Anthony Anderson) and especially expert crime-solver Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers) are determined to get to the bottom of things.

The film, though computer-animated, has a decidedly retro look, as though relying on computer technology from 20 years ago. Go for state-of-the-art animation, and you'll be disappointed. Hoodwinked is the first animated release from the Weinstein Co. and there's the feeling studio heads Harvey and Bob Weinstein desperately scanned the old Miramax shelves for something they could put out until they could find another Shrek.

What they found isn't exactly a milestone in the art of animation, but it is a low-level hoot. Jay Ward would be proud. And here's betting Kurosawa would let loose with a few chuckles.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

Hoodwinked (The Weinstein Co.) Featuring the voices of Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Patrick Warburton. Written and directed by Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, Tony Leech. Rated PG. Time 80 minutes. REVIEW C+



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