It had to happen sometime - what with all the touting and temptation. At some point in every gimmick's lifetime, the stunt destroys its intended target. Now, not the audience (in the case of the creaky ploy being discussed today - 3D), but the user of such a device. In the case of Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, the decision to add a dimension more or less undermines what the original fairytale satire was attempting. Trying to avoid the formulas and stereotypes that seem to plague the animated family film, this sly spoof poked fun at everything we've come to expect from the pen and ink genre...and then some. Now, however, the bloom is off the CG rose and the cliched chickens have come home to roost. While the majority of the movie is forgettable farce, the overuse of 3D in various action scenes renders the rest moot. We spend so much time dipping and diving around the motherboard managed backdrops that we need an air sickness bag. In fact, another for the movie itself wouldn't be a bad idea.
The Plot: While Red Riding Hood - aka Red (voice of Hayden Panettierre) is out getting special training at the Sisters of the Hood mountain retreat, her companions at the Happy Ever After Agency - Wolf (Patrick Warburton), Granny (Glenn Close), and Twitchy (Cory Edwards) - are neck deep in some new trouble. A witch (Joan Cusack) has captured Hansel (Bill Hader) and Gretel (Amy Pohler) and is preparing to do away with them. While they thwart the attempted baking, the evil woman rides off with her hostages in tow. Once back on the case, Red consults with HEA leader, Nicky Flikppers (David Ogden Stiers) and discovers that the entire plot revolves around a secret candy truffle recipe that only a few in the Sisterhood know about...including her own grandmother. When the witch captures her favorite relative as well, our heroine heads to the big city in order to shakedown a magic harp (Wayne Newton) and his ogre owner (Brad Garrett) for information. When she discovers the truth behind what's going on, she'll need all the help she can get - even a certain bumbling and lazy lupine.
That's the problem with Hoodwinked Too! Everything promises to be eye-popping spectacle but ends up coming across as calculated and cold. Again, we take off into the cinematic stratosphere as Red and her buddies try to outsmart the Giant (of "Beanstalk" fame) and make off with some valuable evidence. As we traverse down long green avenues of CG vines, we get caught up in just how cheesy this is. It's like an amusement park ride without the legitimate thrills. It's all fake and phony, as are the attempts at humor and wit. While the first film got by on the fact that it was deconstructing favored fairytales, Hoodwinked Too! treats this concept with a cynical "been there, done that" approach. Instead, it wants to stand next to Pixar and proclaim its comparability to Blue Sky and Dreamworks. Unfortunately, it can't, and when that strategy fails, the films goes overboard into desperation mode. It's at this point where the plot really bogs down, turning into a weird Godzilla riff with rotund German kids as the creatures and our heroes as hampered outcasts from The Incredibles.
Indeed, the biggest obstacle this movie faces ultimately is the notion that it can never compete. The work of Mr. Lasseter and the gang is so uniformly good (Cars 2 aside) and overflowing with imagination that something like Hoodwinked Too! feels like a direct to DVD rip-off. Similarly, for all their pandering and predictable stunt casting, works like Ice Age and How to Train Your Dragon prove there is limited life outside the whole House of Mouse dynamic. While the character design and backgrounds show promise (actually, they are the only imaginative thing here), the rest is just recycled. The whole 'Red training at a dojo' routine is clearly borrowed from better films, while anything involving Twitchy seems copied from Fox's fave - Skrat. Even the voice work appears second tier. While Warburton and Close return, original cast members Anne Hathaway (Red) and Jim Belushi (Kirk the Woodsman) are gone, replaced by Ms. Panettierre and Martin Short, respectively. While bright and colorful enough to keep the kids semi-occupied, this otherwise ordinary effort reminds us that, sometimes, it's better to leave well enough alone. The original Hoodwinked was a lot of fun. The sequel is a slave to such a money-grubbing mentality.