Thank you Twilight. Thank you for warping our notions of what teenage girls like. Really, who knew that gothic imagery, hoaky storytelling, scenery chewing acting, and alt-rock soundtracks was really the bees knees? We owe it to you, then, for Red Riding Hood, a reimagining of the classic fable filled with, you guessed it, gothic imagery, hoaky storytelling, scenery chewing acting, and alt-rock soundtracks. It's by the same person who gave us Twilight, and it's no better. Sure, the wolf may have a vicious bite, but this movie is not interested in showing us the nitty gritty. It toes the line, but never crosses it, and that is not a good thing. Is Red Riding Hood awful? No. But, it's hard to excited about all the same.
|Huh... I forget my name. Was it Bella?|
So, there's some untitled village in some unnamed European country in some undisclosed time period. In this village lives Valerie. She has the good (or bad, depending on who you ask) fortune of being exponentially hotter than every other female, and, as such, has many a man vying for her affections. One of them, an über rich suitor, seeks her hand in marriage, but she would rather run off with the poor as dirt, but oh so charming, wood cutter. Unfortunately, all this angsty angst is constantly interrupted by the monthly werewolf attacks on their village. Eventually, the town elders have had enough of the lupine menace and decide to outsource to the church for help. Enter Father Solomon, a religious zealot with a serious grudge against werewolves. He divulges that the wolf is someone living in the village, and that everyone is suspect. Soon, it is revealed that, shocker, Valerie holds a deeper connection to the wolf, causing her to doubt everyone she knows, including the man she has come to love.
Shit! I'm getting Stephanie Meyer terrors just writing that. The plot takes considerable, CONSIDERABLE, liberties with the fable on which it's based. Really, all they used the source material for, it seems, was Valerie's red cloak and the wolf thing. Every thing else seems ripped from every angsty, supernatural, teen drama ever created. Ai-yi-yi.
Valerie is played by Amanda Seyfried, or, as Movie Bob likes to call her, "Hottest Thing on Two Legs". She's alright. You'll be hard pressed to take her eyes off her, but that might be because she is so beautiful. But, she does do a better job than the material allows, but it's still not very good. It's sad, because Amanda Seyfried is a damn good actress. Mean Girls was not a fluke, but she just keeps taking roles in movies that do allow for her to show off her talent. Chloe anyone? (God, that movie was awful!)
Other roles fall to Billy Burke as Valerie's alcoholic father, Virginia Madsen as her adulterous mother, Shiloh Ferndandez as suitor number 1, Max Irons as suitor number 2, and Lukas Haas as a pathetic priest. Julie Christie shows up as Valerie's grandmother. None of these people go far beyond showing up, reading their lines and performing their actions. No one seems to be really trying.
Thank God, then, for Gary Oldman! As Father Solomon, Oldman chews more screen than I think there was screen to offer, but, he does a great job doing it. Oldman is, probably, the greatest actor to embrace camp such as this, and it shows. He's the only one here who gives it his all, and prevents the movie from being a total disaster.
|This is the most you're gonna get.|
Director Catherine Hardwicke is no stranger to this type of movie. She did, after all, direct a movie I may have mentioned once or twice already in this review. She brings more style and pizzazz to this than she did the tale of Bella and her undead boy toy, but the same issues that plagued that vampiric festival of mediocrity plague Red Riding Hood. Hardwicke continuously gets lost in attempting to make us care about the love triangle between Valerie and her two suitors rather than the more interesting aspects of the story, like Solomon's fanaticism. Would be fine, if the love stories were developed at all, and if Seyfried and her two male counterparts had any chemistry to speak of. Sadly, neither of those is true. Valerie just loves Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome because he is tall, dark, and handsome. There's nothing to suggest at something more; we're just meant to accept that she loves him because he is the most mysterious. Sorry, not good enough.
To be fair, a lot of the films problems, I feel, came from the studio, and not Hardwicke. See, it seems like Hardwicke wanted to go darker with the film, but the studio wouldn't let her go beyond the boundaries of a PG-13 rating. There are moments that push the boundaries of PG-13 of violence and sex. The wolf attacks are actually quite violent and can get pretty graphic. And then there's a titillating "roll in hay" that you just know Hardwicke wanted to farther. It's a shame, because the movie could have benefitted from more blood and a lot more sex. This is camp, and camp doesn't work unless you take it over the top. Unfortunately, nothing is taken over the top, and we are punished for it.
Red Riding Hood is a step in the right direction for this perplexing sub-genre. It features better acting than it's big brothers, and has darker sensibilities which make for a better movie. But the cons far outweigh the pros. Go for some werewolf action and Gary Oldman. If that's not enough for you, than, stay far away. This wolf's teeth aren't big or sharp. They are rather unintimidating.