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Hoodwinked

And now for something entirely different. Film critics and theater audiences had a mixed reaction to this computer-animated release. So mixed, in fact, that it moved in and out of theaters last fall before it had a chance to develop any word of mouth.

Too bad, because this irreverent take on the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood was one of the funniest films of the 2005. It begins with an investigation into the wolf "incident," conducted by the authorities (a frog-inspector, a bear of a police chief, porcine policemen—get it—and assorted other woodland "officials"). Each witness— Red, granny, the wolf, and the axe-wielding woodsman— is interviewed separately and gives his or her take on what happened. And each has a different story to tell.

If it sounds a bit dry, it's anything but. There's plenty here to keep youngsters of any age glued to the screen and adults (except those terminally allergic to animation) engaged. Red is a budding entrepreneur, delivering goodies throughout the woods on her bicycle. Granny is a closet extreme sports enthusiast. The woodsman is actually an inept, aspiring actor who drives a schnitzel truck (?) and tries out—poorly—for a part as a woodsman. And the wolf is an investigative reporter with a hyper, squirrel-photographer sidekick. Surprisingly, all of their stories ultimately fit together into a coherent, Rashomon-like whole that makes the movie far more ambitious than the plots of most animated films, but without being so complicated that it risks loosing younger viewers. While it's definitely bizarre, no other animated film last year even came close to this one in its laugh-quotient. If you like deadpan humor, you'll find it hilarious.

Both the video and sound here are of reference quality for a standard definition DVD. This was a low-budget effort, so the computer animation itself is not as smooth or detailed as you'll see from the likes of Pixar or DreamWorks. But it suits the story, and has quality that comes across as unique rather than simply cheap. The colors are strong, the images three-dimensional, and from beginning to end the transfer is sharp as a tack without a sign of edge enhancement anywhere. A few scenes, such as a runaway mining car sequence, were obviously intended for the film's limited 3D theatrical release.

The audio is just as impressive. From the growling bass, to the clear dialogue and active surrounds, I found nothing to complain about. There's a wild variation in the music music, too, from rap to country. There are a few good songs, but they're woven so intricately into the story that it would be an exaggeration to call Hoodwinked a musical. I particularly liked the sequence with the singing goat. I've watched this scene about a dozen times by now without getting tired of it, and there's a silly grin on my face every time.

Video reviewed on a Yamaha DPX-1300 DLP projector, 78-inch wide Stewart Studiotek 130 screen, and Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player set for 1080i upconversion. Audio evaluated via the player's digital output to an Anthem D1 pre-pro, Proceed AMP5 amplifier, and Revel F52/C52/M22/B15 loudspeakers.

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