- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Will Harris
ou don’t have to be a box office guru to understand why studios would be snapping up scripts based on classic fairy tales: in addition to the instant familiarity of these properties to audiences, there are few things in this world which sound more beautiful to a Hollywood suit than the words “public domain.” Unfortunately, while the inherent girl-meets-wolf storyline of “Red Riding Hood” is perfectly suited to the horror genre, director Catherine Hardwicke has, either by intent or by executive order, made a film which makes a far too heavy-handed bid for some of those big box office bucks that the “Twilight” franchise has been pulling in.
If you’ve seen even so much as a poster for “Red Riding Hood,” you know that, while it may be based on a fairy tale, it’s definitely not a kid’s movie. The premise of the film takes a considerable detour from the original story. Amanda Seyfried plays Valerie, otherwise known as the girl who wears the red riding hood, and she and her family live in a village which has been terrorized by a werewolf for generations. Although a tenuous arrangement had developed over the years, with the creature taking the village’s offering of livestock in lieu of decimating the human population, the beast suddenly begins its attacks anew. Its first victim: Valerie’s sister.
Talk about putting a damper on the news of Valerie’s engagement to Henry (Max Irons), right? But, then, it’s not like she was thrilled about it, anyway. Although the marriage, which had been arranged for Valerie, is one which would prove financially beneficial, she’d much rather run away with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), the dark and brooding woodsman with whom she’s been smitten since she was a little girl. Will she choose lust over stability?
If you’ve just read the preceding paragraph and found yourself thinking, “Okay, enough with the love triangle, let’s get back to the werewolf,” rest assured that this is a thought which will recur throughout “Red Riding Hood.” This is disappointing, as all of the elements of a really solid Hammer Studios horror film are here, including a religious zealot called Father Solomon. It’s a part played with fervor by Gary Oldman (though one can easily imagine Vincent Price or Christopher Lee in the role), and it’s upon Father Solomon’s arrival that the film begins to shift into mystery mode: who amongst the villagers is a closet werewolf? Naturally, Valerie’s two suitors are amongst the suspects, as are her parents, played by Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke, the latter adding an extra dose of “Twilight” street cred to the proceedings. But wouldn’t it be the ultimate irony if Valerie’s grandmother (Julie Christie, still lovely at 69) were the werewolf? Unfortunately, whenever the werewolf action really gets rolling, it always seems to be sidelined in favor of some aspect of Valerie’s romantic quandary.
Given that Hardwicke helmed the first “Twilight” film, it’s no surprise that “Red Riding Hood” looks good, but one can’t help but presume that screenwriter David Leslie Johnson had to suffer through a lot of meetings where he was asked things like, “Can you do something in this scene to make Peter seem more Edward-esque?” No matter who was responsible for trying to force-feed the audience a romantic storyline, the end result takes a potentially terrifying tale and turns it all too tepid.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Despite failing to pull in “Twilight”-sized numbers at the box office, Warner Bros. has shown a surprising amount of confidence in director Catherine Hardwicke’s follow-up with a Blu-ray loaded with special features. The picture-in-picture commentary track featuring Hardwicke and her three leads is surely the highlight of the set, but there’s also a series of production featurettes on things like reinventing the Red Riding Hood fable for the big screen, creating the CGI wolf, and recording the score. Also included are casting tapes for Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons, rehearsals, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and even a cool feature that lets you watch the entire movie in 73 seconds.