Saturday, October 8, 2011

Red Riding Hood

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke.
2011. Rated PG-13, 100 minutes.
Amanda Seyfried
Gary Oldman
Shiloh Fernandez
Virginia Madsen
Billy Burke
Max Irons
Julie Christie
Lukas Haas
Shauna Kain
Adrian Holmes
Michael Hogan

The gang’s all here. We have a not-so-little Red Riding Hood (Seyfried), Grandma (Christie) and the woodcutter (Fernandez). It should go without saying that we have a big bad wolf. In this case we don’t just follow Red, er, Valerie on her trip to Grandma’s. The wolf is not quite the same as we’ve been reading all these years. It’s a werewolf and it is terrorizing the entire village. Understandably, the villagers are on edge because it has decided to attack for the first time in twenty years. Apparently, the animal sacrifices they’ve continuously given over that period are no longer enough. Even more disconcerting, no one know its human identity. Any one of them could be the big bad wolf. Reluctantly, they hire Solomon (Oldman), who specializes in this sort of thing, and his band of unmerry men to find and kill this evil creature.

It’s an interesting premise. Though its know the world over as a children’s story, the original tale is actually violent and dark. Therefore, reimagining it as a horror flick is not quite the leap many believe it is. In that story, the wolf eats Grandma and would do the same to Little Red Riding Hood if not for the Woodcutter taking an axe to him. See? And I haven’t even mentioned the pedophilic and cross-dressing aspects. Honestly, this removes those particular subtexts and adds some of its own. Freedom of religion, adultery and uncomfortably implied incest all figure into the proceedings. Add in some werewolf attacks and bouts of mob mentality and you get a wild ride through an ancient village.

With all of these things swirling about, Red Riding Hood should be an infinitely more enjoyable watch. Sadly, it botches the one thing at which it tries hardest: the love story. We all knew there would be one. It seems you can hardly make a movie without that element. Our Red… sort of engaged in a love triangle. She’s been in love with the Woodcutter, er Peter, her entire life. However, due to her family’s lack of funds it’s been arranged without her consent for her to marry Henry (Irons). The whole thing is way too reminiscent of Twilight. That should be no surprise since director Catherine Hardwicke helmed the first film in that franchise. Even if you don’t like those movies (or books) you have to admit the Edward vs. Jacob dynamic provides some sparks. Here, there is no such excitement because both guys seem to have Edward’s demeanor and personality. Not to mention that I’m not so sure either guy can give Robert Pattinson a run for his money in the acting department, as bad as that is. The portions of RRH that focus on this are tedious work to sift through.

Fortunately, what’s going on with Red’s family is far more intriguing and keeps the movie somewhat afloat. The same can be said for Solomon, his hunting of the werewolf and his interactions with the villagers. Gary Oldman plays it to the hilt, as always. Though his character is here to do a good thing, we’re not sure whether we like him or not. That’s a good thing. On the other hand, it never scares us and judging by the less than thrilling werewolf attacks, it doesn’t really try to. Still, combine this with a lame love story and RRH has a very uneven feel. It vacillates between intriguing and boring without ever settling on either.

MY SCORE: 5.5/10

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