Adorable Little Red Riding Hood opens the door to Granny’s charming cottage in the woods and walks into the bedroom with her basket of goodies. But Granny looks a little different. It is the wolf, in disguise. He lunges toward Red, who, instead of screaming and running away, says, “You again? What do I have to do, get a restraining order?” and goes into her judo stance.
So it’s pretty clear right from the beginning that this computer-animated retelling is not your grandmother’s fairy tale. The characters are the same: Red, the wolf, the sweet grandmother (tied up in the closet), and an enormous woodsman who crashes into the cabin, ax in hand. But then things get a little twisted and a little po-mo — all of a sudden there is yellow crime scene tape surrounding the place and the police — a stork, a bear, and a frog — are there to interrogate the witnesses.
It seems that this may be tied to a crime wave — the theft of the best recipes from everyone in the community.
Still, we think we know what’s coming. RRH was on her way to bring her sweet, gentle, grandmother a basket of treats, the wolf is there to eat Red and Granny, and the woodsman was coming to the rescue, right?
Well, not so much.
As each of the witnesses takes a turn, we find out that nothing was what we thought. Each one has secrets and surprises.
The script is fast, fresh, and witty, with great characters, some clever satire, a couple of surprising plot twists, and a lot of good old-fashioned silly fun.
It has outstanding voice talent as well. As Red, Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries) has a nicely dry delivery that really gets a chance to shine when it is not connected to her princessy prettiness. Glenn Close gives Granny a lot of spirit, and Patrick Warburton (“Seinfeld’s” Puddy) is a master of understated wit. They get able support from Anthony Anderson as the stork, rapper Xzibit as the bear, and David Ogden Stiers (television’s “M*A*S*H” and Beauty and the Beast) as the detective frog.
What’s best, though, about the film is the way it keeps tweaking your expectations. As each story unfolds, we have to confront our assumptions and prejudices in a way that not only keeps us guessing about the real culprit but gives us some real insight into the importance of keeping an open mind.
The animation is just serviceable — the film was made with a limited budget that would barely cover one of Chicken Little’s feathers. That means the textures are superb, but the movements and facial expressions are static and sometimes distracting. The action sequences work pretty well, but when characters are just standing and talking to each other or making smaller movements, the film slows down. But thanks to the clever script and witty performances, this is as filled with goodies as Little Red’s basket.
Parents should know that the movie has some cartoon-ish action sequences and peril that may be too intense for younger children, even though no one gets hurt. Characters use some fresh and sassy language.
Families who see this movie should talk about why we are surprised when the characters do not conform to our expectations. This is a terrific opportunity to talk about point of view and about how different people can draw different conclusions from the same set of facts. They can have some fun taking some other well-known stories and seeing if they can re-engineer them. What would “Goldilocks” be like if the story was told by the bears?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the brilliantly hilarious books A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer, 10 in a Bed by Allan Ahlberg, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.