Red Riding Hood

It’s the tale of a young girl torn between two equally-handsome boys. One is shadier, a little more of a ‘bad boy’. The other is more wholesome, cute even. There are sweeping helicopter shots of the evergreens and mountains of the Pacific Northwest. There are a few bloody moments of carnage, but nothing too terrifying. It’s set to a modern, almost hip soundtrack. It stars Billy Burke as the young girl’s father, and it’s directed by Catherine Hardwicke.

Oh, and it’s not Twilight.

It’s pretty easy to see where Red Riding Hood got its inspiration. Swap out Kristen Stewart for Amanda Seyfried, and present-day Forks, Washington, for some unnamed (European?) village a few hundred years ago, and faster than you can say ‘werewolf’, you have the same movie. While there are worse things to rip off (or ‘find inspiration in’) than Twilight (the $200M it made at the U.S. box office is reason enough), Red Riding Hood doesn’t quite measure up.

While both movies are aimed at the exact same demographic, I can’t imagine Twi-hards eating up (ba-dum-dum!) Red Riding Hood with the same fervor. The script is almost laughable in parts, and while Red is a prettier movie than Twilight (from its star to its scenery), it doesn’t have the same amount of drama or suspense as its present-day cousin.

Seyfried is Valerie, a comely young village lass. Since she was a child, she’s had a thing for wooddcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), the ‘bad boy’ (we know this because he scowls a lot and only wears black). When she comes of age, though, she finds that she’s been promised in marriage to rich silversmith Henry (Max Irons), the ‘nice boy’ (we know this because he has puppy-dog eyes and softer features). As soon as Valerie and Peter decide to run off together, a bell tolls; the wolf who has been terrorizing the village for decades has returned.

The lupine issue catches the attention of the colorful (literally– he wears a purple velvet vestment) Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), who has been hunting the beast for years. When he tells the village folk that the wolf is really a werewolf, and that he/she is actually living among them in human form, well… soon everyone is thinking everyone else is the killer, and village morale hits an all-time low.

Seyfried is perfect in her role as Valerie. Not only does she spend the better part of the movie in a red riding hood, her saucer-eyes and dour disposition make her strangely attractive. (Of course, the fact that the rest of the village girls are all a little on the plain side doesn’t hurt.) She doesn’t bring the same charm (or, frankly, smiles) that she brought to the fun Letters to Juliet, but she easily carries Red Riding Hood all on her own.

Fernandez and Irons, let’s be honest, were not hired for their acting ability, and Oldman is his trademark over-the-top self. The one surprise in the cast is Julie Christie (yes, that Julie Christie) as the famed ‘grandmother’. I’m not sure what drew her to this role, but she does a nice job with it– and you can see she still has some Lara left in her.

Director Hardwicke, with only five movies under her belt, has certainly found her style. Soft focus, flowers, sweeping panoramas, and overhead tracking shots dominate here, as they did in Twilight. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, per se, but she’s this close to becoming her own cliche.

The script by David Johnson (Orphan) is the real downfall. Along with the requisite ‘I’m-no-good for-you’ / ‘I-don’t-care-I-love-you-anyway’ scene, we also get a ‘What-big-eyes-you-have’ bit that’s so preposterous it must have been done for (poor) comic relief.

The blood-splattered movie poster and the trailers all have you believing Red is a horror movie. It’s not. It’s a ‘tween drama, a mopish love story, and a bit of an action-adventure. There’s not much that’s even remotely scary, and, though there are a few bloody scenes, there’s nothing that will be too much for anyone over the age of, say, 12.

Twi-hards, I imagine, will have a decent time watching Red Riding Hood. I mean, if it’s good enough for Leonardo DiCaprio (last decade’s Robert Pattinson) to slap on his name as a producer, it can’t be that bad, right?

2.5/5 stars