'Red Riding Hood' should just stay home



Article Published: Mar. 17, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Red Riding Hood' should just stay home

Amanda Seyfried stars in 'Red Riding Hood.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

In "Red Riding Hood," the Big Bad Wolf doesn't bite - the movie does.

Not quite horror, not quite thriller, this retelling of an otherwise harmless fairy tale is laughable in all the wrong ways, from its heavy-handed teen angst to the ceaseless exchange of yearning gazes. And, of course, the forbidden love.

You know, everything that decidedly - and thankfully - didn't factor into the fairy tale.

It's "Little Red Riding Hood" for the "Twilight" generation, right down to lead characters' perfectly groomed hair, a considerable feat for isolated villagers surviving in what's presumably the Dark Ages.

But the scarcity of hair product is the least of their worries. Their presumably European village in the middle of nowhere is under the threat of a werewolf, one that's been plaguing the village for generations.

When it ignores the habitual animal sacrifice and claims the life of a young girl, things get messy, and a whole lot more angsty.

Stuck in the middle is Valerie (Amanda Seyfried, "Letters to Juliet"), who's in love with orphaned bad boy Peter the Woodcutter (Shiloh Fernandez, "Happiness Runs"), but is betrothed to permanently agape but reasonably well-off Henry the Blacksmith (Max Irons, "Dorian Gray"). Furthermore, her sister was the werewolf's latest victim.

With another attack looming, well-meaning Fr. Auguste (Lukas Haas, "Mars Attacks!") summons the austere Fr. Solomon (Gary Oldman, "The Dark Knight"), bringing his crossbow-toting, fully armored henchman and deluded witch-hunting skills.

Convinced the werewolf is someone living in the village, Solomon begins accusing, demeaning and torturing his way to the truth, or something like it, while Valerie lusts after Peter and makes Henry's life a moping hell.

To make matters worse, Valerie's motives become suspect after the werewolf spares her during an attack, even taking time to telepathically talk to her and coaxing her to run away with it. In exchange, the village would be spared. Naturally, she refuses and tries to keep her supernatural conversation a secret.

But she begins considering her friends, family members and general acquaintances as potential suspects - is it Peter, who wants her to run away with him anyway; her creepy, dreadlocked grandmother (Julie Christie, "Doctor Zhivago"); or even Solomon, who claims his now-dead wife was a werewolf?

The thing about it is "Red Riding Hood" purposefully tries to mislead viewers into suspecting certain characters to the point of shouting, "Enough already!" Even more aggravating, the true culprit is pretty darn obvious from the get-go.

Director Catherine Hardwicke ("Twilight") wastes too much time with cheap attempts at scares, especially point-of-view shots, contrived to make it seem the werewolf is watching Valerie and Peter making out again, when, in fact, it's only Henry, the village idiot (Cole Heppell, "The Fog") or Valerie's boozy father (Billy Burke, "Drive Angry").

But juvenile melodrama far outweighs any suspense or urgency. The film foolishly takes itself too seriously, and the characters are so bland they're simply not worth caring about.

The film's only real highlights are able performances by Seyfried and Oldman, who do their best with the given material, Oldman in particular.

A poorly computer-generated werewolf doesn't help matters. Seriously, special effects from the '80s ("An American Werewolf in London") and early '90s ("Wolf") put those in "Red Riding Hood" to abject shame.

And an audience-boosting PG-13 rating effectively neuters the beast, whose bloodless maulings are dwarfed only by the clean-cut, soap-opera romance. Practically speaking, "Red Riding Hood" is all bark and no bite.

"Red Riding Hood," rated PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 20 or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com.

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