Is ''Hoodwinked'' too clever by half?
Is ”Hoodwinked” too clever by half?
Hoodwinked (voices of Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Jim Belushi)
DVD; PG; 81 mins.
Shrek proved there’s plenty of green to be found in fairy-tale films, especially when they offer the occasional wink at the grownups who accompany tots to theaters. But this updated telling of Little Red Riding Hood is a little too clever for its own good (or its target audience). The film relies heavily on sarcasm and pop-culture references only parents will catch, like how the Wolf is an homage to Chevy Chase’s investigative journalist from the Fletch films. Moreover, when the forest’s secret dessert recipes begin to disappear, the identity of the mysterious Goody Bandit is revealed only after sophisticated storytelling from shifting points of view: an angelic Red who yearns for a more exciting life, the not-so-Big-Bad-Wolf, the dumb-as-a-doorknob Woodsman, and a tattooed Granny who refuses to act her age. Even though kids love repetition, this tack could leave them befuddled or bored. C — Jeff Labrecque
Recommended ages: 7 and up
Beethoven’s Wig 3: Many More Sing Along Symphonies
CD, Rounder, $12.98
In his third effort to make classical music more accessible and palatable to young listeners, Richard Perlmutter concentrates on pieces that highlight a particular instrument — from the cello to the xylophone, cornet to trombone, and everything in between. His playful lyrics (he sets ”Please keep your bull outside the china shop/ No bulls allowed, that’s where they stop” to the Toreador Song from Carmen) will stay in your head long after the music has stopped. And kids, when they become accustomed to it, might have fun trying to guess the instruments that are used. B+ — Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 4 and up
Book; written by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Houghton Mifflin, $16)
D.J. Schenk is 15 — a hard age under the best of circumstances, but her circumstances are worse than most. Her dad’s hurt his hip, so she’s taken over the twice-daily milking on the family’s Red Bend, Wis., farm. Her mom’s got two jobs. Her little brother Curtis, who doesn’t talk, has started to collect animal skulls. Her best friend, Amber, has announced she’s gay. And thanks to a big family fight, no one’s talking to her two big brothers, once stars of the local high school football team. But despite all the contretemps, the book doesn’t have a soap-opera feel at all — even when D.J. decides to go out for football, boy’s football, at Red Bend High. Thanks to D.J.’s folksy candor, Dairy Queen brims with charm and teenage angst (Murdock definitely remembers what it was like to be 15) and comes to a satisfying, but not overly rosy, conclusion. A- — Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 12-15
The Butterfly Garden
Book; illustrations by Stephanie Booey, text by Sue Harris (Chronicle Books, $15.95)
By bending back the flaps on these thick, glitter-encrusted pages, toddlers can join a small kitten as she frolics through the yard, looking for butterflies. Harris’ text is as gentle as the drawings: ”Tabby pads down to the pond/ Where rushes bend and sway./ Perhaps this flash of softest pink/ Is butterflies at play?” The overall effect is playful and lovely. A — TJ
Recommended ages: 2-5
Book; Written and illustrated by Chris Gall (Little, Brown, $16.99)
”Dear Fish, Where you live is pretty cool. You should come visit us someday. Plus, my mom makes good pies.” That’s what Peter Alan scribbles in a letter that he seals up and tosses into the sea. And guess what? The fish do visit, showing up all over town: Sharks take over the rodeo, an octopus terrorizes the beauty salon, a sturgeon appears at the baseball field. So many fish come, in fact, that Peter is forced to write another note, begging them to return to the ocean. Parents and kids alike will enjoy this book: The story is zany and original; the illustrations, striking. A — TJ
Recommended ages: 5-8
Book; written by Lee Merrill Boyd (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $19.95)
Playing with gasoline and matches lands 7-year-old Riley Boyd in intensive care in a burn ward, swathed in gauze and ointment. His mother’s and father’s voices swirl above him, hazily at first, then with increasing clarity. He hears doctors discuss his prognosis as if he weren’t there; he endures daily baths to soak off his charred skin. But Riley is a strong little boy, determined to live, determined to get out of his hospital bed; even the prospect of walking about town in his mask, without much of a face left, does not bother him. (Parents, rest assured: The descriptions of his injuries are in no way graphic or stomach-churning.) With grit and spunk, Riley comes to terms with his disfigurement (though his mother has not); his sturdy spirit suffuses this remarkable novel. A — TJ
Recommended ages: 11 and up