Red Riding Hood
by George Sax
Red Riding Hood
Just before Tuesday night’s preview began, a film distribution factotum loudly warned the multiplex audience that anyone caught using a mobile phone would be unceremoniously removed from the premises “without exception, no ifs, ands or buts!” Even before the screening had ended this had begun to seem like an unwarranted warning. There won’t be much of a bootleg market for Red Riding Hood: Even bad movie buffs will be hard put to wring any enjoyment out of this dismally inept horror fantasy.
The movie has little to do with the old children’s story. Our not-so-little Red is Valerie (Amanda Seyfried, from Mamma Mia and HBO’s Big Love), a young woman living in a medieval northern European village that has been terrorized by a giant wolf for decades. Well, not just a wolf, because about a half hour into the movie the bloodthirsty beast is abruptly and inexplicably rebranded as a werewolf. That’s when Gary Oldman turns up as Father Solomon, an exotically imagined prince of the church who travels with a retinue of armed Nubian retainers. He declares that the murderous creature is living undetected among the villagers and that he will conduct a sweep of their homes and businesses to find and kill it.
At this point, it briefly seems possible that director Catherine Hardwicke (the first Twilight film) is going to give us a pretentiously silly gloss from Arthur Miller’s anti-red-baiting and anti-McCarthyite play, The Crucible, but there’s nothing so high-minded or coherent as that on the filmmakers’ minds. The movie just plods on tediously, awkwardly.
Our heroine is in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), a poor woodcutter, but she’s been promised to a rich man’s son. Julie Christie turns up incongruously as her grandmother, and figures in a short scene that evoked the only laughter from Tuesday’s audience, an unintentionally ludicrous steal from the fairy tale’s most famous lines. Otherwise, the dialogue is flatly banal soap-opera speak. (“I know what a woodcutter earns,” Val’s mother tells Peter as she rebuffs his suit for her daughter.)
Hardwicke’s direction is clumsy and sometimes confusing. She lacks even rudimentary skills for action sequences or basic scene framing. Red Riding Hood isn’t a fun bad movie, simply a bad one.
Watch the trailer for Red Riding Hood
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