Red Riding Hood
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Gary Oldman
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Release Date: March 11, 2011
PLOT: A young girl (Seyfried) struggles to accept her arranged marriage while the village she lives in receives sporadic visits from an evil werewolf.
WHO’S IT FOR: Did you see Beastly last week, and enjoy yourself? Whether you are of two different camps – one, you were mistakenly caught up in loving it, or two, you were trying to breathe from laughing at it so hard, this movie recognizes the silly, silly fun you had with that movie, and wants to give you more. But if you’re looking for a new dreamboat Twilight-like romance, look elsewhere.
EXPECTATIONS: There were a few curiosities stewing in my head when I sat down for this film. “Would it be like Hardwicke’s Twilight, or like Beastly, or a horrific mix of the two?” And of course, “How many Death Cab For Cutie songs will be on the soundtrack?”
Amanda Seyfried as Valerie: She’s duller than fake snow in a role that her big eyes and oozing homeliness could have been put to actual good use. Seyfried goes through a list of teenage emotions, like when she is jealous, mopey, or even submissive to the bad boy pinning her down. Still, she plays them all with the same lack of charisma, blocking the audience from caring about her family or relationship drama. She best represents the idea that arranged marriages suck – but we all know that.
Shiloh Fernandez as Peter: A funky mix of the faces of Joaquin Phoenix and Sean Penn, Fernandez is constantly speaking through a sharp smirk billowing from his wide mouth, all of it bellowing cheese and uninteresting rebelliousness. Some casting director might have thought they had the next Robert Pattinson on their hands, but they were way off.
Max Irons as Henry: He’s the other pretty boy in play here, this one the least significant corner of the movie’s lame love triangle. A pushover, he often displays wimpy angst more than anything else, and while doing so manages to lose all potential as a reasonable, emotional option for Valerie. Whereas Peter is all big and bad, Henry could get his lunch money stolen by Michael Cera.
Gary Oldman as Solomon: When Gary Oldman isn’t playing supporting parts in good movies like The Dark Knight, he tends to spend his time stalking around quality questionable movies (like The Book of Eli), and yelling a lot, doing whatever he damn pleases. This mentality is no different in Red Riding Hood, which has Oldman playing a silly power hungry lead wolf-hunter who brings chaos to Valerie’s village when wrangling up a McCarthy-like investigation to see who’s the night stalker in question. He’s often goofy with his fancy beard, tin nails, and crazy monologue about accidentally killing his wife.
TALKING: Red Riding Hood’s romance is insincere, especially when one lends an ear towards its dialogue. Cliche lines abound here like “I’ll wait for you” (something that probably lost its touch when movies started using color). This lack of imagination does tend to work for the benefit of its more terrible lines, such as the laughable-out-loud “Lock him up – in the elephant!” The film’s slight tendencies to refer to the original tale’s classic bits like “I’ll eat you up” or even “Grandma, what big teeth you have!” only serve to make the movie mock itself.
SIGHTS: Extensive location shot snippets fail at distracting the viewer from thinking that this movie was undoubtedly made on a set, and the same can be said the cinematography’s weird choices to make the camera look as if it were falling from the sky (used in introductions, oddly enough). And even though the characters don’t look like they’re very cold, it’s always snowing in the movie. The special effects for the CG wolf are decent enough, especially when we are actually able to get a more full view the serial-killing animal. The wolf attacks at lightning speeds, which makes it difficult to see if a person has been bitten or just scratched. More bluntly, it also makes it difficult to care.
SOUNDS: The Red Riding Hood soundtrack controls its modern tendencies and keeps its song selection fairly slim – and you won’t see Pitchfork.com championing this CD as you did with the similar Twilight either. A couple of modern groups are used, like Fever Ray and Big Pink, but with little distinguishing from Red Riding Hood’s boring score. During romantic moments, effects pedal electric guitars calmly noodle. When things get intense, the score feels as if its only playing the same note over and over to create terror.
BEST SCENE: When Claude is “locked up in the elephant,” there is a wonderful cut from a medium shot of him struggling within the fireplace torture device to a close-up of a blood-red piece of meat being devoured by Gary Oldman. The audience gasped at this cut, and I howled with laughter.
ENDING: Does that “playful grin” on Valerie’s virginal face actually indicate bestiality? How progressive!
QUESTIONS: How could a Warner Brothers production that is co-produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by the first helmer of Twilight look so cheap and phony? Why did no one pick up Soloman’s arm even just a little bit after it was cut off? And what f**king year does all of this take place?!
REWATCHABILITY: It remains up in the air as to whether Red Riding Hood would make for a drinking game as fun as “Beers for Beastly,” as some parts of this movie are void of any form of fun.
Best of luck to all hopeful viewers who yearn to find satisfying entertainment in Red Riding Hood, a movie that is best taken in as a half-funny joke. Its three different potential story elements fail to stand on their own, and they certainly don’t click together. Red Riding Hood’s love triangle is unspectacular with two dull males given forefront attention. While the script does keep the wolf’s identity open to more than just a couple of village members, it also in turn doesn’t develop the characters within this community. When an inner village wolf-hunt begins, we don’t care much about who the real “criminal” is, as everyone, including Valerie’s two suitors, are imagined so lightly. On top of this, Red Riding Hood can’t even fake its existence as a creature movie. This wolf looks more like a big drooling dog than a mysterious malevolent creature of the night. (Thankfully, flashbacks to last year’s The Wolfman are slim.)
The movie might be for gullible teenagers, but it gets worse – its art direction has the same quality of a high school production. (And a pretty boring one, too.) For example, the hairstyle is erratic and lazy as it looks extremely contemporary, which makes for a funky fit against the setting of a story that was first told 700 years ago. During even the most emotionally demanding sequences, extras could not any more disinterested with themselves and their work. The ground is even meant to be snow, but the sound design constantly indicates that its more like sand. And with all of this, Red Riding Hood couldn’t make it any more obvious that a large chunk of it was shot on a set, which looks like it belongs in the 1920s. It’s big, it’s bad, and it’s phony.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10