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AT THE MOVIES: Hoodwinked – You Ain’t Kidding:

It’s a wonderful thing when animators get hold of something we know very well and flip it on its head.  Toys were revealed in Toy Story, fairy tales in Shrek, and now it’s Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf and a trip to grandma’s house that has been shredded and put back together again. Hoodwinked, which miraculously hit the number one spot at the box office, is one of the worst children’s films ever made.  That in itself is an achievement.  It isn’t easy screwing up Little Red Riding Hood – the story works when left alone.  It’s suitably creepy and reaches deep into our psyches and ignites universal irrational fear.  But this version features bad writing coupled with mediocre animation and a plot that tries too hard to be funny but more often than not falls as flat as a pancake.  Who ever had the brilliant idea to tell a traditional story from more than one angle forgot that the concept is only part of what makes a script great.  The rest of it is in the details.  Like Spielberg’s Munich, Hoodwinked sets up its trajectory early on.  By the mid-point, you’re already exhausted imagining how much farther there is to go before the inevitable, predictable conclusion. Hoodwinked tells a seemingly simple story – Little Red Riding Hood going to grandma’s house with her little basket and encountering the “big bad wolf.”  Just then, the cops burst in and a crime scene is declared.  Under interrogation, each story is revealed in 20-minute sequences, which add up to many different angles of the same story told apart.  They overlap, of course, which turns out to be the only even mildly interesting part of the whole film, as  one story bleeds into another. Written and directed by Cory and Todd Edwards, and spoken by Glenn Close, Anne Hathaway and Jim Belushi, Hoodwinked doesn’t have nearly enough laughs to occupy anyone in the audience, no matter what age.  And it is unfortunately replete with jokes only adolescent boys would think funny, but in fact aren’t funny at all.  Any joke featuring a wild and crazy grandma has got to go. Sorry, boys. If the laughs aren’t there you hope at least a valuable lesson is there.  Alas, there isn’t even that.  But, hey, it hardly matters.  Parents will take their kids to see anything just to give them something to do.  And they will buy the DVD just to give them something to watch in the car.      Meanwhile, the Golden Globes put the Ang Lee cowboy love story, Brokeback Mountain smack dab in the frontrunner’s spot for the Best Picture Oscar when it won Screenplay, Director and Picture, a feat accomplished only by a few films in recent history – American Beauty, Schindler’s List both topped the Globes.  In fact, Brokeback’s popularity has baffled many in the industry who thought the gay theme might put voters off.  In fact, not only has it not put voters off but “gay” seems to be a more popular theme than ever.  Felicity Huffman won Best Actress in a drama for playing a transgender character, and Philip Seymour Hoffman won Best Actor for playing the flamboyantly gay Truman Capote. Although many at the Globes ceremony were hailing it as a great year for Hollywood films, others are saying it’s one of the worst ever, with dwindling box office and nothing good for mainstream Americans to see.  The only film that seemed to cross over was Walk the Line, which hasn’t been tracking as well as films like Good Night, and Good Luck, Capote, Crash and of course, Brokeback Mountain. George Clooney picked up Supporting Actor for Syriana, proving that the Globes love their big stars.  Rachel Weisz won Supporting Actress for The Constant Gardner, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix won statues for their work in Walk the Line.  What is interesting, however, is the love/hate relationship the big sister show (the Oscars) has with the Globes.  When Oscar nominations are announced on January 31, everyone will be watching to see if the Academy differs all that much from the Hollywood Foreign Press.  Usually they don’t.  So if “gay” goes over well with the HFPA, it may go over well with the Academy.  Either way, there is no denying the power of a show like the Globes taking place just as Academy members are filling out their ballots.  (See Tiny Screen, page 14, for more on the Globes and list of the winners)

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