Dir: Cory Edwards. US.2005. 81mins.

Written and directed by a trio of virtually unknownfilm-makers, computer animated family comedy Hoodwinked feels like a cheap and cheerful cross between Shrek and Looney Tunes. The cheapness - mostlyexposed in relatively rudimentary CG work - makes Shrek-level theatrical successunlikely; but the cheeriness of this sassy LittleRed Riding Hood re-telling could result in a strong performance on DVD.

Award recognition would, ofcourse, boost the theatrical prospects, but while the film has been named oneof the ten 'semi-finalists' for the animated feature Oscar, an actualnomination seems like a long shot.

Picked up for North Americaby The Weinstein Company, the cartoon starts an Oscar-qualifying run in LosAngeles this weekend and is set to go wide in the US on Jan 13. The rescheduledrollout (the opening was originally set for Dec 23) might help Hoodwinked by keeping it away from bigbudget Christmas competition but the theatrical release will still serve mostlyas promotion for ancillary launches.

Outside the US, independentdistributors acquiring the film from seller Cinema Management Group may be ableto reap decent theatrical and video returns, especially if they can secure locallyrecognisable talent to re-dub the dialogue.

Writer-directors CoryEdwards, Todd Edwards and Tony Leech previously made live action comedy Chillicothe, which screened at Sundancebut went straight to video in the US.

For their feature animationdebut they received backing from KanbarEntertainment, run by New York entrepreneur and inventor Maurice Kanbar and former Disney executive Sue Bea Montgomery.

The familiar fairy tale herebecomes a woodland crime story, told Rashomon-style, with a frog detective (voiced by Ogden Stiers) and bear, pig and stork cops investigating the'domestic disturbance' at Granny's cottage. In this version, someoneis driving all the woods' goody merchants out of business and 'Red' (The Princess Diaries star Hathaway)decides to take her family's secret recipes to Granny (Close) for safekeeping.

What happens then is retoldin flashback, first by Red, a bright young woman who longs to explore the widerworld; then by the Wolf (Warburton), who turns out to be an investigative reporter;then by an oafish Woodsman (Belushi) who is actuallya schnitzel delivery guy and wannabe actor; and finally by Granny, whose secretpassion for extreme sports is revealed as the story unfolds.

There is a moral to the tale- Granny realises she's been over-protective with the adventurous Red - butit's given less prominence than the lessons delivered in most animated familyfilms. Comedy is the priority, and though the jokes aren't especially clever (Star Wars, Mission: Impossible and xXx are among the movies briefly spoofed) they are funnyenough often enough to make the movie endearing.

The voice performers,several of them experienced on bigger budget animated projects, help make upfor what is the sometimes only TV-standard computer animation. All theperformers are strong, but the standouts are Andy Dick (Zoolander) as campy bunny rabbit Oingo and Patrick Warburton (who did voice work on The Emperor's New Groove) as thehard-boiled Wolf.

The dozen or so catchyoriginal songs, mostly performed by co-writer-director Todd Edwards or voicecast members, are another asset. Written in styles ranging from rock throughcountry to hip-hop, some - like the very funny bluegrass numbers sung by ablind goat - are purely comic, others fairly straight.

Production companies
Kanbar Entertainment
Blue Yonder Films

US distribution
The Weinstein Company

International sales
Cinema Management Group

Tony Leech
Todd Edwards

Maurice Kanbar
Sue Bea Montgomery
Preston Stutzman
David K Lovegren

Cory Edwards
Todd Edwards
Tony Leech

Tony Leech

John Mark Painter

Main cast (voices)
Anne Hathaway
Glenn Close
Jim Belushi
Patrick Warburton
Anthony Anderson
David Ogden Stiers
Chazz Palminteri
Andy Dick
Cory Edwards
Benjy Gaither