Just judging on the fact that the story has been interpreted to be an allegory for sexual awakening, Little Red Riding Hood was just asking to be dumbed down and reimaged into a romance for teeny-boppers. So eat your heart out kids, here’s Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, a film that might have been decent if it hadn’t been directed by the same person who shot Twilight to unstoppable heights by helming the first installment in the cinematic series — damn you!
In it, Amanda Seyfried is Valerie, an innocent and virtually unimportant beauty torn between a troublemaking woodcutter and childhood friend, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), and her arranged fiancé — the resident rich kid — Henry (Max Irons), who promises her a better life. She chooses Peter, but as they frolic in the flowers and plan their runaway, the town bell tolls, signaling that there has been a murder.
The culprit is deemed to be an enigmatic werewolf, whereas the victim is Valerie’s own sister. Frustrated, the townspeople form a violent mob dead-set on finding and slaying the beast, which they do . . . sorta, because while the hamlet is distracted in celebration, the monster strikes once more, thus requiring them to scope out the aid of an outside professional.
When all this cheesy build-up ends, Gary Oldman’s character, Father Solomon, a famed werewolf hunter and pompous jerk who arrives with his own personal army and a metallic elephant inspired by Roman torture devices, is finally introduced. In response to the killing, he offers a long, incohesive tirade meant to explain the lore surrounding their enemy; according to him, if you are bit during the blood moon, then the beast’s curse is passed onto thee. Somewhere in between, Solomon not only recalls his own experiences with the creature, one of which cost him his wife, but also remembers to mention that the fiend is hiding in its human-form, most likely amongst them.
But although Solomon seems to make things up on the fly and screenwriter David Johnston jam-packs the character with unneeded clichés, Oldman does his best, resulting in the only thing watchable in Red Riding Hood — his asinine performance somewhat of a joy to watch. The same, however, cannot be said about the rest of the cast. Mixed in with two amateurs — Irons and Fernandez — Seyfried lends a performance devoid of all personality. And it doesn’t help that Valeria is essentially a rehash of Bella, ‘cept set in the medieval ages.
The similarities don’t end there; in fact, the director’s influence is made obnoxiously clear from the start. Everything from the opening shot, an aerial view showcasing a large expanse of computer-generated forestry (all of which looks appallingly plastic), the Gothic romances, and the poorly designed, one-note set-pieces just scream “shameless cash-in.” Another parallel? Both have painfully hackneyed scripts.
But this tactic seems to be working; a flood of teenage girls continuously swarmed into the theater until just moments before the show started. Too bad Red Riding Hood is just as melodramatic as its target audience.