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Red's 'hood; Great cast, ideas can't save this 3-D animated film

Red Riding Hood is still good. But in this animated 3-D comic revisionism so is the Wolf. In fact, he's feminist "Red's" laid-back partner, with Patrick Warburton's voice.

Wait, there's more.

Hansel and Gretel, in "Hoodwinked Too: Hood Vs. Evil," are the power-hungry bad guys, complete with German accents and a refusal to even make an effort at plausible entitlement. Nor is the witch necessarily as all-out witchy as you might think. Sure, she had a hand in kidnapping Red's granny and tying her up, gagged, to a chair but, well, there's history there between the two old ladies.

You might think about all this when you contemplate the most mind-boggling fact about this overcaffeinated and cheesy cartoon trying to cash in on the bonanza in 3-D cartoons which is bringing us elsewhere a Golden Age of Animation.

What you've got here is mostly camembert, but you have to admit it has more than its share of creative ideas in its tale of Happy Endings and Sisterhood triumphant. (Me? I kind of love the idea of Hansel and Gretel as self-inflating villains; I'll bet Mel Brooks would, too.) And some of its gags are rather good.

But what rocks your socks is the voice cast: Hayden Panetierre (as "Red" as in Riding Hood), Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, David Ogden Stiers, Brad Garrett, Cheech and Chong, Amy Poehler, and yes, Andy Dick and Wayne Newton.

Surely a cast like that ought to be worth something.

Then again, tell Shirley maybe not. Or not all that much.

The biggest trouble here is that the script -- the product of many hands, all, no doubt, contributing gags -- is pretty funny at times but you'd seldom know it from the worried hysterical tempo of the movie which swallows up more lines than it actually delivers in all their comic glory.

Add a musical score which refuses to either go away or do anything interesting and you have an animated feature that is, uhhh, not quite living up to its potential.

Among movies opening in area theaters today, in fact, it would have been perfect if this movie's frenetic slam-bang style had contributed some of its crazed, amphetamine tempo to jolt "Henry's Crime" into the comic land of the living -- and if, in return, "Henry's Crime" had made a gift of some of its gray mournfulness to "Hoodwinked Too" so that the movie's hardworking writers and animators could at least get their actual moments of cleverness across.

Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

What's on-screen is what's on-screen -- by no means a total disaster but a very minor blip in the glorious radar of animation on megaplex screens.




2 1/2 stars (out of 4)    

VOICES OF: Hayden Panetierre, Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, David Ogden Stiers    

DIRECTOR: Mike Disa    

RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes    

RATING: PG for some mild rude humor, language and action.    

THE LOWDOWN: How the Happy Ending Agency's "Red" teams up with the big not-so-bad Wolf to make the cartoon world safe for her kidnapped Granny.    

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