2005’s low-budget, halfway-charming Hoodwinked! developed into a minor hit despite its humble origins, but does anyone out there honestly remember it? More pertinently, who genuinely wanted to see a sequel? Limping into cinemas almost six years after its predecessor, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil is easily one of the worst animated movies ever made to date. Without any of the humble charms that made the first movie so enjoyable, Hoodwinked Too! falls completely flat on its face, with flaccid animation, no laughs and no worthwhile moments, all wrapped up in a sluggishly-paced package which will fail to satisfy even the most unfussy of movie-goers. It’s for the best that this snooze-fest was an utter box office flop, failing to reach the $20 million mark worldwide even despite the 3-D surcharge.

Following the events of the first film, Red (Panettiere) has left her home to be trained in a desolate dojo in the art of baking and fighting. However, her friends at the Happily Ever After Agency are not as peachy, with Granny Puckett (Close) having been kidnapped by Verushka the Witch (Cusack) after a botched operation to rescue the kidnapped Hansel (Hader) and Gretel (Poehler). HEA head Nicky Flippers (Stiers) calls Red into the fray, sending her on a rescue mission with the Big Bad Wolf (Warburton) and his partner Twitchy (Edwards). As the trio set out to save the portly stolen kids and their beloved elderly colleague, a far more devious plan is put into effect that’s bigger than any of them could have imagined.

While the original Hoodwinked! subverted the tale of Red Riding Hood by filtering it through a Rashômon lens, this lazy follow-up elects it own path, turning the potential franchise into a hyperactive action-adventure tale. Hoodwinked Too! has no shortage of fairytale elements, but they’ve been mashed together in a soulless stew of excess. Hoodwinked!‘s original team (Todd Edwards, Cory Edwards, Tony Leech) returned to help write this sequel’s script, but they clearly lost sight of what made their picture such an unexpected hit in the first place. Then again, the script is also credited to director Mike Disa, an occasional visual effects technician overseeing his first theatrical feature here. Perhaps Disa is to be blamed for the shortcomings, or perhaps the first film’s masterminds were simply blinded by the promise of money. Speaking of the obvious cash grab, Hoodwinked Too! reeks of gimmick, with unnecessary stunt casting (including Cheech and Chong) and the decision to present the flick in 3-D. The camera movements, therefore, are incredibly over-caffeinated to give cinema-goers their gimmick-guided money’s worth. Also awful is the animation, which looks dreary and dull (mouth movements are especially poor). Though it’s somewhat of an improvement over the original film, there’s no getting around the fact that this animation is completely inadequate for a theatrical presentation.

Absolutely nothing works here in terms of humour – Hoodwinked Too! relies on tired puns, unfunny in-jokes and juvenile slapstick. The first film was by no means a comedic masterpiece, but this follow-up is unable to even meet this modest standard. For God’s sake, this supposed “kid’s movie” even goes so far as to unsubtly reference The Silence of the LambsDeliveranceScarfaceStarsky and Hutch, and even Gone with the Wind. And then there are the cheap, recycled jokes, such as a cringe-worthy Star Wars reference which reeks of desperation. Speaking of unoriginality, the notion of Red being trained in a dojo but finally learning lessons in the heat of battle was borrowed from better films, while the overzealous Twitchy seems like a Scrat rip-off. With absolutely no screenwriting genius and no accomplished visuals, Hoodwinked Too!is a chore to get through. Its runtime is rather compact at 85 minutes, but the picture is such a miserable experience that it feels twice as long.

The voice work is patchy, with vocal performances ranging from decent to dismal. Both Anne Hathaway and Jim Belushi refused to reprise their roles here (as Red and the Woodsman, respectively), so, while both are missed, at least they were smart enough to pass up such dreadfully uninspired material. Unfortunately, Hathaway’s replacement – Hayden Panettiere – has such a different sound and feeling that one can’t help but wonder why she was chosen for the role of Red. Meanwhile, Belushi’s replacement (Martin Short) is equally insipid. Aside from Bill Hader and Amy Poehler who are pretty enjoyable as Hansel and Gretel, the voice work is almost uniformly awful here; Glenn Close sounds asleep as Granny, while Patrick Warburton displays no evidence of comic timing as Wolf. And while some of the other actors seem to be trying, the material completely squanders their efforts.

Without any charm, heart or wit, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil is an all-round bad movie suffering from bad writing and terrible execution. The novelty of fairytale characters being 21st Century spies wears off instantaneously, leaving nothing but a clichéd plot, witless dialogue and disappointing animation which was brought together by a director completely clueless about such concepts as pacing and heart. 2005’s Hoodwinked! was pretty enjoyable, but this sequel reeks of money-grubbing mentality.

0.8/10