Hoodwinked, a fast and furious crackpot skewering of Little Red Riding Hood, is reminiscent of a number of other digitally animated fractured fairy tales. Cory and Todd Edwards, the co-writer-directors (with Tony Leech), work with an intricately frenzied slapstick delirium that invites comparison to the Shrek films, the Pixar fables, and (in the nondigital realm) Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The Edwards brothers, however, made their movie independently for $15 million — a miraculously low sum in the world of feature-length animation — and what that relative chump-change budget bought them was the freedom to follow their flakiest corkscrew whims. When they stage a sequence in which Red Riding Hood’s grandmother turns out to be a ride-the-devil extreme-sports champion (you heard me), zipping down a mountain on a power ski just inches ahead of a billowy snow avalanche, you don’t question the zaniness, because the lickety-split insanity of what you’re seeing is so marvelously timed and staged. Bolstered by a score of winkingly catchy pop ditties (I especially liked the annoying billy goat who’s forced to sing every line he speaks), Hoodwinked is all jokes, bits, and interlocking narrative gimcrackery; it lacks even a trace of feel-good frosting. Yet the absence of ”heart” is part of the film’s charm — its antic amorality. If popular, it could kick a whole new era of homegrown animated madness into high gear.

In the spirit of a Tarantino time bender, Hoodwinked begins at the end, with the famous climax of Little Red Riding Hood. Except that Red’s confrontation with the Wolf in Granny drag is interrupted by a lantern-jawed Scandinavian lumberjack crashing through the window, at which point you know you’re not in Grimmville anymore. The movie then flashes back to four different versions of the events that led to the ”crime scene,” showing us the tale from the point of view of Red herself (voiced by a no-nonsense Anne Hathaway); the Wolf (Patrick Warburton), who turns out to be less predatory than he looks; the wildly stoked Granny (Glenn Close); and that what-in-God’s-name-is-he-doing-there lumberjack Woodsman (Jim Belushi). The result is a wacked kiddie Rashomon in which the different versions dovetail with a logic as impeccable as it is flat-out buggy. So who do we root for? Everyone and no one. Hoodwinked‘s most radical feature is that it’s a ride without heroes — unless, that is, you count the filmmakers, who could end up doing for independent animation what Soderbergh and Tarantino did for indie film: planting it on the map as a viable mass-culture form.

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