Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil (2011)

The unfairly maligned and overlooked animated gem Hoodwinked put a creative little spin on the Red Riding Hood story, giving it a Rashamon framework and an absurd sense of humor. Granted, the animation was subpar, but it had some strong writing and funny characters to make up for the lack of eye candy. Its sequel, Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil is also being maligned and overlooked but for all the right reasons.

It’s an unintentional satire of the modern animated flick, a paper thin story strung together by a number of pop culture references, a mockery of the hero’s journey and a series of crass body humor gags. The end result is one of the most surreal and fascinating train wrecks of recent cinema, a film unrelenting in its sincerity and even more unrelenting in its awfulness.

One moment, it’s trying to be satirical and self-depicting, making fun of movie logic in the same way Kung Fu Panda 2 tackled it, but without an ounce of the charisma or wit. The next moment, it’s trying to be as straitlaced and sincere as the dramatic beats of How to Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3, but without the heart or sharp dialogue of those two features.

It’s odd, because the film goes through all the right motions, aims for all the right emotional notes, but none of it ever clicks. It’s a grotesque and perverse outline of a good animated film, a glimpse at how hollow the frame of so many children animation features are built. And that’s because this film has nothing of substance: not the characters, not the story, not the themes and certainly not the humor.

There are a few chuckles to be had, almost all of them involving the sharp tongue of The Big Bad Wolf (Patrick Warburton), who rambles on like he’s in a screwball comedy, but without a verbal foil, he’s left giving the setup and the punch-lines to all his jokes, making them considerably less humorous.

The other chuckles are to be had out of some inappropriately hilarious movie references. Sure, Pixar has shown the power of subtle humor aimed at adults in films, but in Hoodwinked Too!, given their meaning, they’re almost obscene. The most hilarious and disturbing is when Twitchy (Cory Edwards), yells “squeal like a pig” while riding atop a pig, a reference to one of the more disturbing and infamous moments in Deliverance.

There are moments where the humor borderlines on subtly brilliant, like the series of gags built around punishing an animated goat, making him a literal scapegoat for the audience’s amusement, but the problem is that while these moments have an intellectual notion of humor while the execution falls completely flat.

Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil is a wakeup call to how paint by the numbers children animation is. Unfunny, sincere in the worst possible way and touting a plot that makes the dumbest James Bond narrative look thoughtful. And while one can certainly chalk up the film’s failure to execution, one has to wonder if that framework itself isn’t rotten to its core as well.

© 2011 James Blake Ewing