Hoodwinked, despite some surface similarities, is no Shrek, and that's at least part of the reason why it is one of the most delightful surprises of the new year.
Rated PG for some mild action and thematic elements, the film is a tongue-in-cheek fairy tale, a semi-modernized retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story in the form of a police procedural, told in Rashomon-like flashbacks. That irreverent attitude toward a childhood classic might lead parents to suspect that Hoodwinked takes a similarly irreverent (as in, crude) approach to its humor, the besetting sin of the otherwise cleverly twisted Shrek films. One is startled to discover that's just not the case.
The film opens with a brief lead-up to that well-known, well-worn scene in which the Woodsman (voiced by Jim Belushi) bursts in on the big, bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton), dressed as Granny and threatening Little Red Riding Hood (or just "Red" here, voiced by Anne Hathaway). Granny (Glenn Close) is in the closet, bound and gagged. Hoodwinked begins at what should be the (happy) ending, but next we see these four characters seated in Granny's sitting room in handcuffs, surrounded by cops, yellow police tape crisscrossing the front yard. Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), some sort of British-accented investigator, begins to interrogate the suspects. None of these familiar characters, it seems, is who we expected.
Hoodwinked was directed by Cory Edwards, a stand-up comic who has built a career out of performing for church audiences. He takes a sort of Airplane-style approach to his cracked fairy tale, letting the gags fly fast and furious, filling every scene with multiple layers of subtle and not-so-subtle jokes and cultural references. Some fall short, some miss completely, but many are right on the money. Even the requisite songs are funny, particularly those of a goat named Japeth (Benjy Gaither) who is forced to sing his every line of dialogue.
There's plenty for adults to enjoy here, but almost none of it is at the expense of the movie's intended audience. (The lowest the film goes is in using "schnitzel" as a profanity.) That's a rare combination-an animated film that can make grown-ups laugh without the underlying fear that their kids might also get the joke.