Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hoodwinked (into wasting a couple hours)

When the movie Hoodwinked first opened, it seemed intriguing. A very different animation style, very smart and clever bits in the trailers - I was curious.

We watched it recently, and it's startling that a movie could have so many low points.

Even more surprising are the comments at movie forums like IMDB -- people either loved this movie or hated this movie with very few on the fence. As I read the comments, I found myself more firmly entrenched. The proponents of the movie generally talked about how the directors/producers/writers were unencumbered by studio demands and thus were able to create a more focused, undiluted movie. I don't think an undiluted movie is a good movie -- it's just a focused, bad movie.

Yes, it was clever to look at the same story from 4 different first-person perspectives. Yes, the characters are all very different from each other. But the movie (even the 4 perspective angle) was gimmick after gimmick after gimmick. And none of the gimmicks really contributed to emotionally moving the audience. It just ended up being meaningless complications and an overcomplicated plot that placed the movie out of the reach of children and out of the patience of adults.

My biggest criticism: we can't feel what the characters are feeling so we can't participate in the movie. And it's that participation that hooks us: that constantly building terror in The Shining, things spinning completely out of control in Very Bad Things, nostalgia for the lost era of Route 66 in Cars, sense of utter confusion and fear in Memento, feeling like the world is wide open as Marlin hitches a ride with surfer-talk sea turtles in Finding Nemo, experiencing the quiet moments of triumph in shows like ER and The West Wing, the driving despair of making the wrong decision and not being take back last words in Spiderman, the list goes on and on. It's seeing a scene, reading a quote from the movie, or hearing the music and being pulled immediately back to all those emotions that make a movie great.

And those moments don't exist in Hoodwinked. Yes, it's a cartoon and a cartoon with talking animals so some argue how it can really make us relate. But other cartoons have succeeded where this one failed. We don't feel for Red because Hoodwinked doesn't show us that she wants out of the forest -- it just tells us through one half-expressed song. (For comparison, when Ariel in The Little Mermaid is willing to sacrifice her greatest asset to break out of her world, the audience understands because the story has made the audience feel her need.)

Perhaps the only bright spot in this painful movie is the the over-caffeinated squirrel Twitchy. So if you have to watch this movie, watch it for Twitchy.
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