NEW YORK — "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" might have had a chance if its enormously talented voice cast had written it, too.
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With Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Joan Cusack, Martin Short and even Wayne Newton among those lending quite good voice work to the film, it's a shame they couldn't do more to help.
Who wouldn't want to see what (other voice contributors) Andy Dick, Glenn Close and Cheech and Chong could come up with after a screenwriting session?
Instead, we have "Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil," a computer-animated sequel to the mostly forgotten 2005 original. Six years later, the fractured fairy tale has returned with 3-D graphics, more polished animation and less wit.
There was some madcap charm to the earlier "Hoodwinked!," which reinterpreted the story of Red Riding Hood as a "Rashomon"-style detective story, unearthing an alibi for the wolf (Patrick Warburton) and a hereto unforeseen joie de vivre in Granny (Close).
Such mash-ups of fairy tales have become commonplace since "Shrek" and children's books like David Wiesner's "The Three Pigs."
But "Hoodwinked Too!" takes the same characters and instead of refashioning a fairy tale, casts them in an action film plot. Red (Hayden Panettiere assuming Anne Hathaway's role), Wolf, Twitchy (an over-caffeinated squirrel voiced by Cory Edwards) and Granny are now special agents in the HEA: Happily Ever After Agency.Slideshow: A mom's look at recent kid flicks (on this page)
Led by the dapper, long-legged frog Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), they pursue the kidnapped Hansel (Hader) and Gretel (Poehler) when they're taken by a witch (Cusack).
In the ensuing rescue mission, the team encounters returning characters like Boingo the Bunny (Dick) and Kirk the Woodsman (Short, assuming Jim Belushi's part), as well as new ones, including a mafioso Giant (Brad Garrett) and a lounge-singer harp (Newton).
The frame, though, is more "Mission: Impossible" than Brothers Grimm. In a frantic pursuit for a "super truffle" recipe, there are attempts at inserting modernity with motorcycles and cell phones. Most unnecessary is the sisterhood of kung fu bakers.
In his feature debut, director Mike Disa has unquestionably improved on the cheap-looking animation of the original. The result is a more professional-looking film with less comedy.
"Hoodwinked" was written and co-directed by Tony Leech and brothers Cory and Todd Edwards. All return here as screenwriters, co-writing with Disa. The 3-D was added in post-production and is very much in the "rip-off" category of 3-D quality.
There are forced, adult-oriented references to Comic Con, Rachel Ray and Twitter. The film works best when it's playful within a fairy tale world (as opposed to an action film world), like when agents storm a gingerbread house and rather than kicking down the door, eat it.
One feels sympathy for such classic, beloved characters constantly being refashioned for films beneath them. Red Riding Hood needs a better agent.
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