'Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil'
Sequel is too much ’hood, not enough winking
There was a spunky underdog quality about 2006’s Little Red Riding Hood riff “Hoodwinked’’ that made it the year’s most unexpected animated treat. Filmmakers Cory and Todd Edwards and Tony Leech unabashedly, appealingly dished up a syndicated-’toon aesthetic along with a hyperactive contemporizing streak that aimed to out-“Shrek’’ even “Shrek,’’ story logic be darned. Best of all: This wasn’t just a comically fractured fairy tale, but one with a compellingly fractured narrative as well, thanks to “Rashomon’’ replays of the road to Grandma’s house.
All of that seems far, far away in the 3-D animated “Hoodwinked Too!,’’ in which the animators ditch structural ambition in favor of straight-up action spoofery that’s all freneticism and very little cleverness. The sequel picks up with Red (Hayden Panettiere, taking over for Anne Hathaway), extreme-livin’ Granny (Glenn Close), and the Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton) now working secret ops as part of the Happily Ever After Agency. Amusingly, Granny has been re-outfitted with Uma Thurman’s “Kill Bill’’ tracksuit; disappointingly, Wolf has been recast as a needy dork, a pure plot convenience that undermines Warburton’s usual goofy bluster.
While Red is off honing her kung fu with the monastic Sisters of the Hood, Granny is captured during a botched mission to rescue Hansel and Gretel (Bill Hader and Amy Poehler) from a wicked witch (Joan Cusack). No prob — our heroine can just snarf down one of the Sisters’ magically empowering super truffles and save the day. Except that the secret truffle recipe she needs has also been snatched, her Jedi training isn’t yet complete, and she and Wolf are having issues. It’s not easy being Red.
The rote, noisy investigation effort that follows is often a consternating drag for Red and Wolf, and for the audience, too. A scenery change from forest to Big City offers a skyline mashing up Jack’s beanstalk, the Chrysler Building, and the Golden Gate, along with the novelty of Wayne Newton voicing an anthropomorphized harp in a mob nightclub. In another bit of old-school quirkiness, Cheech and Chong play little pigs with urban-guerrilla rocket launchers and a score to settle with Wolf. But mostly the “retro’’ elements are shamefully stale — a real flaw when you’re aping “Shrek.’’ Among the recycled dialogue: “Hasta la vista, Wolfie,’’ “It’s Hammer time,’’ and “Hello, Clarice.’’ (“Who’s Clarice?’’ asks Red — as if kids should even care enough to wonder.)
And then, goodness gracious, there are the creep-outs. Hader and Poehler’s porky kinder-’toons vaguely recall Chucky — more so as the movie goes along. Cusack’s witch spends half the movie hidden behind a demonically shadowy kabuki mask. Suddenly, the filmmakers seem determined to use and abuse that Brothers Grimm license to be scary. By the time the giant, snarling spider shows up — the most boggling of the movie’s various “holy schnitzel’’ touches — parents of the littlest “Hoodwinked’’ fans may be feeling hoodwinked themselves.
Tom Russo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.