Hoodwinked aspires to be the Rashomon of animated film. In case you aren’t familiar with the reference, let me explain. Rashomon is famous Japanese film directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. It gives conflicting versions of the story of a brutal rape and the murder of the woman’s husband.
Hoodwinked, in case you aren’t aware, is a retelling of the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. The story has been updated and filled with the usual pop culture references and pop songs that have come to be expected in animated films today. Aside from that, the film bears little resemblance to other animated films. Because Hoodwinked is a film with ideas and political and cultural and social implications.
It may be the first postmodern animated film. Or, well, at least the first postmodern animated film of this millennium. The story of Little Red Hiding Hood has been peopled with several new characters and the familiar ones have undergone some transformations. I don’t want to give away any of the revelations that make this well-known story surprising, but in this version Grandma is the head of a goodies-making enterprise. Red is her delivery girl desperately dreaming of escaping the woods and heading off for adventure. The wolf is, well, not what he seems.
The movie opens with Red delivering her basket to Grandma, only to find the wolf in disguise. All goes according to expectations until the wolf is revealed and Grandma comes busting out of her closet all tied up and a huge guy with an axe bursts through the window and the police are called in. At that point, each of the major characters tells their story. That is, they tell what they know of the overall story, creating a mosaic of truth that is relative to say the least.
What seems open and clear-cut in Red’s version is revealed to be only partly true in the wolf’s story. Same goes with Grandma’s version and the story told by that mysterious big guy with the axe. What the filmmakers are trying to say is that truth isn’t absolute. The Sith and Republicans would like you to think truth is absolute, that everything is clear in black and white, but deep down we all know it isn’t. Even when we think we know the whole story, we don’t. We’re never privy to every single part, there are always mysteries that stand to be unraveled.
If Hoodwinked stopped here and merely rested upon being a postmodern retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, that alone would make it worth the price of admission. But after the facts are finally revealed and what really happened at Grandma’s house is made clear, the film then takes off in another direction. Some would say at this point the film becomes less original, settling into the conventions of the standard good-guys-get-the-bad-guys plot. But if you read between the lines, you’ll find that Hoodwinked at this point get really subversive.
Pardon me for being cryptic because I truly don’t want to reveal any plot points in this review. But when it’s finally revealed who the true villain of the film is, that character takes on all the attributes of the exploitative capitalist business owner that American media have turned into folk heroes, but who are in reality the worst kind of villain.
Proponents of capitalism love to point out that their system is preferable to communist systems because in a free enterprise system you have competition. Competition is what drives innovation and keeps prices reasonable. Except, of course, every capitalist owner wants nothing more than to create a monopoly. You see it every day: one big company buying up another company.
Free enterprise is supposed to foster competition, yet we have fewer media companies than we did ten years ago; we have fewer phone companies than we did ten years ago; we have fewer cable companies than we did ten years ago; we have fewer airlines than we did ten years. And Walmart alone has driven more companies out of business than all other companies combined. Competition? This is why capitalism is preferable to communism?
Frankly, I don’t see the difference. And then there’s the people running these companies. Folk heroes like Bill Gates and Sam Walton. Excuse me for not buying into the hype. The revealed villain of Hoodwinked is a character clearly based on people like Bill Gates and Sam Walton; a business tycoon whose road to success lies not in creating better products, but in forcing competition out of business. When your competitors can no longer compete, it’s pretty easy to get your face on the cover of Business Week and get named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.
Hoodwinked turns from a movie that questions the validity of absolute truth into a movie that maintains an absolute truth: capitalism that runs amok without regulation is detrimental to society. The great hype that free enterprise as a system engenders competition and innovation is a lie and the villain of Hoodwinked is the personification of that truth.
Unless the leaders-so-called-of this country step in to stop the dangerous trend of mergers and acquisitions, this country stands to resemble nothing so much as the dreaded communist nations we have been taught to fear. Once upon a time we had just one phone company and then it was split into several smaller companies that slowly went about acquiring one another until we stand on the precipice of one day having just one phone company again.
And it will happen in industries across the board. Rather than free enterprise creating a vast network of competing companies that create niche products, we have instead a small coterie of multinational conglomerates that all create identical and homogeneous products. Does innovation really mean nothing more than three brands of Cherry Cola and four brands of Raisin Flake cereal?
The villain of Hoodwinked plans to go into the goodies business and make a killing. Not by creating new, improved goodies, but rather by stealing the already popular goodies on the market. (Sound familiar? Just think of a man whose name rhymes with Rates and a product that rhymes with Rindows.)
Hoodwinked, that silly little cartoon about Little Red Riding Hood, turns out to be the most subversive movie released nationwide since Fahrenheit 9/11.