Rated PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality, 105 minutes
“Red Riding Hood”: One big, bad bore
Once upon a time in the land of Hollywood, they made a film based on a children’s fairy tale, with a lavish production, big stars, a noted director and in the end...it sucked. “Red Riding Hood” is the new thriller loosely based on the age-old folk tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” On the plus side, the production is stylish and handsome, and it has the terrific Gary Oldman, but this woefully misguided effort ends up a huge mess that only the big bad wolf could enjoy. Badly-acted, sloppily directed and not a bit scary, you may actually appreciate "Twilight," that mediocre vampire-werewolf story this movie is modeled on.
Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding woodcutter, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons). Valerie and Peter plan to run away together when Valerie's older sister is killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village. Under a blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Oldman), to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon's arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them.
“Red Riding Hood” is a lavish, intriguing interpretation of the gruesome fairy tale, but by and large it’s a lifeless failure with little spark or chills. Unfortunately, the movie rests in the hands of director Catherine Hardwicke, who helmed the first “Twilight” film and who tackles similar themes here with the same type of misguided banality.
The impressive sets and costumes (unsurprising, given Hardwicke’s set design background) are the highlight, with little else that’s memorable, especially the same type of cheap special effects Hardwicke used in “Twilight.” It doesn’t help that the most disappointing effect in the film is the werewolf itself, a cheap piece of fakery that provides more unintentional laughter than any genuine scares. Hardwicke, director of edgier fare like “Thirteen,” should stay away from films involving werewolves, or maybe just stay away from directing films.
“Red Riding Hood” wobbly leans a couple of factors for its success. The first is the “mystery” of the werewolf, which turns out to be a creepy disappointment, but good luck in staying awake to get that point. The other is the charisma of the handsome but wooden leads: “Big Love’s” Seyfried and newcomers Fernandez and Irons, all of whom lack chemistry or believability, while talented actors such as Julie Christie, Billy Burke (another “Twilight” fixture), Lukas Haas and Virginia Madsen are also wasted. Even the usually-watchable Oldman (“The Dark Knight”) is relegated to chewing on scenery as a big-name priest.
“Red Riding Hood” will likely attract some viewers seeking a “Twilight”-type of thrill the first week of release, until they realize that snoring doesn't exactly instill good buzz for a film.
Wes’s Grade: D+