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'Hoodwinked' lacks a certain edge

''Hoodwinked" marks the tidal ebb of the digital animation wave. A ''hip" spin on the old fairy tales, it takes place in a fantasy world whose cheaply rendered surfaces resemble Teletubbieland reupholstered with Naugahyde.

The heroine, a plucky Little Red Riding Hood voiced by Anne Hathaway, has immense eyes in an oversized head; she looks like nothing so much as an instant-message avatar, which is fitting, since the 9-to-13 age bracket is the only audience that'll be amused by the movie. Writer-directors Cory and Todd Edwards and Tony Leech have pooled their talents to come up with a Mad magazine parody minus the edge, or ''Shrek" with added drek.

In its defense, ''Hoodwinked" is as good-natured as it is toothless. The film opens with the crime scene at Granny's house: Red has just discovered the Wolf (Patrick Warburton), the Woodsman (James Belushi) has crashed through the window, and Granny (Glenn Close -- wait a minute, Glenn Close?) has popped out of the closet where she has unaccountably been hiding.

Police chief Grizzly (Xzibit) wants to get to the bottom of it all -- as well as find the ''Goody Bandit" who's been destroying all the sweet shops in town -- and with the help of dapper frog detective Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), they take depositions from Red, the Wolf, and Granny. We see the story three times in a row, each from a different character's point of view. That's right, it's ''Rashomon" for idiots.

There are some cute surprises in the telling -- Granny turns out to be an extreme-sports fanatic, for one thing -- but ''Hoodwinked" never builds to a level of sustained comic mania. It's content to alternate soft-boiled topical gags with such bright, chintzy physical comedy as a roller-coaster ride in a miner's wagon that evokes fond memories of ''Super Mario 64." One aches to think what the great ''Looney Tunes" directors could have done with this material.

The cheerfully sardonic vocal performances are the best thing here; the bouncy '80s-retread rock songs on the soundtrack the worst. Will your tweeners like it? Probably, but they'd enjoy 80 minutes of your undivided attention better. ''Hoodwinked" is game (in fact, it's more of a video game than a movie), but if your kids haven't developed taste, this is as good a time as any to teach them -- by showing them one of the old ''Fractured Fairy Tales" from the ''Rocky & Bullwinkle" show. Now that's hip.

Ty Burr can be reached at

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