Review Of Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood

Sometimes hitting the multiplex just isn’t in the cards. That’s when cable, the web and streaming step in to provide an instant movie fix. But how to separate the wheat from the chaff? I’m happy to help, every week I’ll pick a flick and see if it’s worth your time. This week? “Red Riding Hood”

Characters Of Red Riding Hood

  • Red Riding Hood: A young girl sent on an errand by her mother.
  • The Mother: Red Riding Hood’s mother who sends her to her grandmother.
  • The Grandmother: Red Riding Hood’s target destination, who is tricked and eaten by the wolf.
  • The Wolf: A cunning predator who deceives Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.
  • The Woodsman (sometimes absent): A helpful figure who rescues Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.

The Story: Valerie lives in a village that, well, looks like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Lots of timber, dirt and snow. Any wonder she wants to run away with her love Peter? The fact that her mom just made a marriage contract for Valerie to marry Henry isn’t making it tempting to stay, either. Just when Valerie and Peter decide to blow this popsicle stand, there’s a murder in the village. Seems that there were killings years ago, done by a rather vicious wolf. Killings that stopped when the villagers decided to placate a wolf by sacrificing their best livestock each year. Now that doesn’t seem good enough. Enter Solomon the werewolf hunter. But what’s worse; the Big Bad Wolf or those sworn to defeat it?

The Good: You’ve gotta love it when Gary Oldman gets to play batshit. And with this Were-finder General role, there is plenty of scene-chewing, literally and figuratively. Amanda Seyfried (Mama Mia, Big Love) plays Valerie/Red, all ethereal beauty and fire. How could Red not be gorgeous, with Julia Christie as her grandmother? (And what is Christie doing here, anyway; is she behind on her mortgage?)

There are enough twists and turns in Red Riding Hood to keep viewers guessing, and tons of gorgeous scenery to look at while the story unfolds. Bonus points for throwing in beautifully done art-school shots of long flowing red capes. Red Riding Hood manages to straddle entertainment and art without doing a disservice to either. Nice trick.

The Bad: When Big Bad W is revealed? It’s more of a whimper than a howl. What a shame. With all the obvious work that went into art direction, cinematography and set design, to dump a clunker of an ending is a disgrace. Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Twilight, Lords of Dogtown) should know better.

And the big love triangle? Sure, there’s a love triangle here, but there’s no real heat between anyone. One character seems to love Valerie just because it says so in the script, and since there’s no real history behind the characters, there’s no clear reason for her to choose either of them. The love scenes seem uncomfortable for the actors, and with no real chemistry, I was rooting for Red to just pick up and leave everything far, far behind. That’s a new twist I’d like to see. Future filmmakers? You’re Welcome.

The Everything Else: There’s an interesting side-story about Valerie’s mother that I would have liked to have seen fleshed out a bit more. Since the film runs at a little under an hour and forty-five minutes, a few extra bits of non-verbal communication here and there would have made things a bit more interesting, while keeping the mystery front and center.

The effects are well done, from The Big Bad Wolf to Solomon’s creepy silver fingernails. The cinematography is crisp, clear and sets the mood of the film from the first frame. There’s a focus on the red of Valerie’s “hood” and the white, black and grey of the village. Wolf scenes are handled well, with quick cuts; editing this good is a welcome surprise for what is essentially a throw-away movie dumped into the post-awards season wasteland.

Here’s the breakdown:
Would I watch it again?: Yep. Even though the “romance” is bland and not a little bit forced, Oldman is at his usual Method acting creepy best, Seyfried does a lovely job, and the story has a weird-artsy vibe to it. Plus, I want to take a closer look at Grandmother’s house. It’s pretty awesome.
Should you see it?: As long as you’re not expecting the run-of-the mill fairy tale — or even thinking about letting your young kids watch it (Just Say No, people) — it’s a fun way to enjoy the current were-craze without hitting the usual overtired storylines. Just don’t expect much, and you’ll enjoy yourself.

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