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Repackaged Fairy Tale Has Trouble Hitting Stride

What the world needs now is a brand new take on the age-old story of Little Red Riding Hood? That's Kanbar Animation's stance, and they're sticking to it. Kanbar, the latest animation company to challenge Pixar's box-office supremacy, makes its debut with Hoodwinked, an inconsistent repackaging of the classic Grimm Brothers fairy tale. When it works, it's an amusingly clever satire, with enough subtle, devious humor to win over the adults as well as the kiddies. Unfortunately, it works only sporadically, and the downtime isn't pretty.

At least give co-directors Cory and Todd Edwards credit for trying something sort of new. Taking a cue from Akira Kirosawa's Rashomon, Hoodwinked is a story told from multiple perspectives, with Red (Anne Hathaway), Granny (Glenn Close) and the Wolf (Patrick Warburton) detailing the events that lead to their fateful rendezvous in the forest. Red is the standard fairy-tale heroine: gutsy, aggressively cheerful and precocious, if a tad nave. She's also a martial-arts expert, much to the delight of Granny, who is now an avid fan of extreme sport, and prone to saying things like "Fo' shizzle!"

If that doesn't sound funny to you, you're not alone. More amusing is Patrick Warburton's big bad Wolf, recast here as an investigative journalist with a quick wit and a sharp tongue to match his razor-like teeth. Warburton, who has made a career out of playing sarcastic cut-ups on TV shows like Seinfeld and the regrettably short-lived Tick, has a natural gift for comic timing, and he puts that to good use in Hoodwinked.

But in a movie awash with unnecessary characters -- featuring James Belushi as the flamboyant Woodsman! Warburton can't right the ship. Sure, the animation lacks the artistic sophistication of recent winners like The Incredibles and, to a lesser extent, Robots, but a stronger script could have saved the day. Instead, Cory and Todd Edwards, who also share screenwriting credits, have peppered Hoodwinked with too many glib pop-culture in-jokes, slapped together a slew of breakneck action sequences that seem more like flashy filler than vital components to their story. All the superfluous hang-gliding, snowboarding and skiing may work well enough as temporary eye candy for the junior circuit, but they can't sustain a feature-length film.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars