Kinda sorta based on the Grimm fairytale, Amanda Seyfried stars as Valerie. That’s right, the character isn’t named Red Riding Hood, she simply wears one. Well, some of the time. Anyway, Valerie is in a bit of a pickle. Two, actually. One the one hand, Valerie is caught between two young men. She fancies childhood friend and woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents (Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke) have arranged for her to marry the son (Robert Pattinson-ish Max Irons) of a blacksmith. Meanwhile (in a plot thread nowhere near the Brothers Grimm), a werewolf has just killed Valerie’s sister. Although the townsfolk hunt it down and apparently kill it, famed werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) claims they have killed a mere ordinary wolf. This puts Valerie, as I said, in a secondary pickle, because she discovers that she has a seemingly psychic link to the werewolf, which makes her seem awfully suspicious to the townsfolk, and especially the ruthless Father Solomon. Oh, and it’s also the time of the Blood Moon, where werewolves are able to bite someone and turn them into a werewolf. In an attempt to escape all of this, Valerie puts on her title article of clothing and heads for Grandma’s (Julie Christie) house. Lukas Haas plays an ineffectual priest who is responsible for bringing Father Solomon into town.
Aside from obvious “Twilight” influences in terms of Gen Y hunk casting and director Catherine Hardwicke (the first “Twilight”, the overrated teen drama “Thirteen”) at the helm, this 2011 retelling (and expansion) of the classic fairy tale, looked quite interesting to me. The visuals, although certainly similar to the awful “Twilight”, looked far more appropriate and thickly atmospheric here. I had modestly high hopes for it. Unfortunately, although the “Twilight” comparisons prove somewhat surface-level, the film still isn’t any good. In fact, it’s bloody boring, stretching out an incredibly thin story well past breaking point. “Freeway” managed to take the skeleton of the Little Red Riding Hood story and make it work at feature length by subverting it and perverting it, and was a lot of fun. The makers of “Red Riding Hood” don’t seem to know what fun is. Mind you, maybe having the lovely Amanda Seyfried and her big, beautiful eyes deliver the ‘My, what big eyes you have, Grandma’ line was meant to be funny (And it is funny). You’d think someone would have noticed that Seyfried has much bigger eyes than Julie Christie, but I doubt it. The rest is too self-serious to make that argument plausible .
I must say that the film does look absolutely first-rate. The cinematography by Mandy Walker is stunning, and unlike the “Twilight” films, Hardwicke allows trees to actually look green instead of grey-blue. Everything looks so colourful and glowing, you’d swear this was Technicolour. But there’s no denying that good-looking or not, this isn’t much of a movie. At first, I nearly had a stroke when Seyfried ventured off to Grandma’s house after just 20 minutes. What the hell? Of course, because the film needs to run 90 odd minutes, it’s just a preliminary visit, with the actual visit taking place after about 70 minutes. And what occurs in between is tedious padding.
This would’ve made a gorgeous silent film, unfortunately it is boring as batshit whenever someone opens their mouth. Aside from a surprisingly fun Gary Oldman (who for once manages to be hammy without being self-servingly eccentric), and Seyfried (well-cast, despite her eyes) these actors are terrible and the characters tedious. Oldman seems to be inspired by Peter Cushing in “Twins of Evil”, and indeed, his Hammer-esque scenes give the otherwise enervated film its only energy. His entrance in particular, is memorable. As talented and beautiful as Seyfried is, she can’t stop her character from being insufferably dull. Even worse are the otherwise talented Virginia Madsen (reasonably plausible-looking as Seyfried’s mum) and Lukas Haas, whose performances are terribly stiff. The rest are awfully unconvincing, like an amateur Canadian TV movie version of the story, or something. Billy Burke (Bella’s ineffectual dad in the “Twilight” series), in particular, has become an absolute joke, cast once again as a useless father. **** SPOILER WARNING **** Also, as much as Hardwicke and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson (the memorably twisty “Orphan”) don’t offer up the expected teen-oriented twist to the central mystery, the film’s second twist is definitely too much of a Twi-hard. Just as you’re about to commend the film for not going there with the werewolf’s identity (although the identity of the werewolf isn’t too surprising despite several red herrings), they go ahead and give it to us as a secondary (and unnecessary) twist. **** END SPOILER ****
At the end of the day, whilst this film isn’t quite the “Twilight” knock-off I expected, it’s also not the fun film it could’ve been. It’s unconvincing and exceedingly dull.