Red Riding Hood

19 Apr

Title: Red Riding Hood
Year:
2011
Director:
Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: David Johnson
Starring:
Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas, Julie Christie
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, violence and creature terror, and some sensuality
Runtime:
100 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
4.8
Rotten Tomatoes:
12%

Catherine Hardwicke directs this film, based, rather loosely, on the very famous Little Red Riding Hood folk tale. Now, Catherine Hardwicke is a woman I want to talk a bit about before I talk about the film itself. Her directorial debut came with 2003’s Thirteen, a very daring and raw film that I love and that was certainly in my Top 10 of that year. She followed that up with Lords of Dogtown, a film that wasn’t as great, but that was still seriously good, and that had her directing a terrific performance from Heath Ledger.

After those two fantastic films she did The Nativity Story in 2006, with Keisha Castle-Hughes playing the Virgin Mary. That film was a total slip-up, a very uninspired retelling of a story we didn’t need to be told yet again. But anyways, two years after that she came with the film people know her for, even though Thirteen should be that movie, which was of course Twilight. Now, that film made ten times its budget at the box office and was a huge delight to fans of the book, but was really so-so at best, the following two films in the saga (non directed by Ms. Hardwicke) having been better than the first, which is good because it’s not often you see a series of films in which they get better and better.

I just talked about the four films Ms. Hardwicke had made before she gave us Red Riding Hood so that you have her body of work present. She’s always dealing with young people at a very specific point in their lives, whether it’s experimenting with drugs and sexuality, or skateboarding, or giving birth to the mesiah or dating a vampire, she likes to explore the psyches of young people. And the results have been decidedly mixed, from the awesome first two films, to the lesser ones that followed them.

And now, as she tackles another young female leading character and gets to explore the realm of werewolves she would have been thrown into had she directed New Moon, she’s at it again, delivering a very teenage-angst-ridden darker look at the tale we all know so well. The result, however, is far from great, and this definitely is the worst film she’s done yet, and I just can’t wait until Ms. Hardwicke ditches the fantasy worlds she’s been loving for the past half decade and goes back to telling real stories.

And the fact that it’s not so good considering some of the people that were cast in this film, only adds insult to injury. Amanda Seyfried, who plays the titular role, is an actress I’ve always been a fan of, and who I usually shower with praise when I review her films. Then there are also more veteran actors who are let go to waste here like Virginia Madsen, Julie Christie, and the insuperable Gary Oldman.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Ms. Seyfried and Mr. Oldman are actually the two best parts of this film. The look of Ms. Seyfried alone makes her a perfect fit for the role she’s given to play here, and Mr. Oldman can play anything he wants to and make it look good, but the fact is that the script is incredibly weak in this one, the dialogue is incredibly stale and the whole plot felt totally uninspired.

Not to mention that the two young men cast as the leading male roles were particularly crappy, too. Max Irons, a model that’s actually the son of Jeremy Irons, apparently didn’t get his father’s acting genes and should most certainly stick to modeling. While the other young male protagonist, Shiloh Fernandez, is just as helpless here. I mean, Ms. Hardwicke obviously wanted cute guys who would help draw the tween crowd who just couldn’t wait til November for the next Twilight film, but at least Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner can act a bit or two, she should have gone with the same casting director for this one.

I’m kind of mad that Red Riding Hood turned out to be such an inglorious mess of a film, it had a director who has proven that she can do some great things, and had in Ms. Seyfried one of the brightest young stars in the business to play the leading role, and a few great actors in its supporting cast as well. And yet the result is a film I won’t find myself failing exactly because of those few elements I liked, they weren’t enough to make the film anywhere close to good, but they were enough to make me be able to sit through it without feeling much disgust.

I really don’t think that Ms. Hardwicke’s love for over-stylized imagery and teen angst fit this material at all, at least not in such huge amounts. The red riding hood, Valerie, we see trying to pick between a bad boy type who she really likes and a good guy type who she’s been arrange to marry. All the while there are being werewolf attacks in the village she lives in, and Mr. Oldman, who plays a shady clergyman, starts a hunt to find out who the creature is.

The plot deserves no more outlining, the film is just badly done, not even the costumes or the sets are particularly great, they all feel like cheap Renaissance fair material. Not to mention that there are lot of times in which Ms. Hardwicke insists to use these close-ups in which she pushes into the eyes of her characters, it all feels ridiculous here. Just wait til you get to the part in which they try to recreate that famous “What big eyes/ears/teeth you have!” line. If you’re not laughing in disbelief at how ludicrous it all is then you’re much stronger than I was.

Grade: C-

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