Oh the horror that is Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood ! This update of the classic fairy tale is undone by a ludicrous script, jumbled direction and a central performance that dominates the film in all of the wrong ways. Obviously pitched at the Twilight set, which the director helmed as well, the film seems most effective in generating unintended laughs and inducing vertigo on its unsuspecting viewers.
The village where Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) lives is on edge due to a recent spate of werewolf attacks. Her sister is the first victim and soon suspicious glances are being cast on every citizen as it’s determined the monster’s in their midst. Is it the dark and sexy Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), who Valerie has the hots for, or Henry (Max Irons), the blacksmith’s son who she’s betrothed to? Then again it could be the simpleton Claude (Cole Heppell) or even Grandma (Julie Christie) herself. One thing’s for sure, his eminence Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) will get to the bottom of it, even if it kills him or destroys the village itself.
The film is a muddled visual mess, what with Hardwicke’s unnecessary camera sweeps and dives while the wolf attacks are so confused you’re not sure if a beast is causing all of the havoc or just a giant hairball. The script by David Johnson, which is riddled with wooden dialogue that produces shrieks of unwanted laughter, doesn’t help. When Valerie starts talking to the wolf, you know we’ve jumped the tracks.
Oldman seems intent on bludgeoning the script into submission with the sheer force of his hammy performance.
Hardwicke is such a poor director she’s unable to keep the actor in check and he falls victim to his own bad habits. But, as bad as the performance is, the most offensive thing in the film is its disturbing subtext. While the tale’s been interpreted in a myriad of ways, from it being a story of a young woman’s sexual awakening to it being a metaphor for the changing seasons, the wrinkle Johnson introduces will have most of the teen viewers going “Ewwww!” long before the end credits put us out of our misery.
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