Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Red Riding Hood Movie Review

I have praised the recent dark fairy tale movies that have come about recently, Snow White and the Huntsman and Jack the Giant Slayer were both creative and decent movies. The first of these dark fairy tale movies to hit theaters was Red Riding Hood (2011), so in the interest of seeing the movie that started the trend, I finally got around to watching it. Big mistake.
Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons). Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter are planning to run away together when they learn that Valerie's older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village. For years people have maintained an uneasy truce with the beast, offering the creature a monthly animal sacrifice. But under the blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon's arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them. As the death toll rises with each moon, Valerie begins to suspect that the werewolf could be someone she loves. But as panic grips the village, Valerie discovers she has a unique connection to the beast -- one that inevitably draws them together, making her both suspect and bait.
So I didn't realize it at first, but Red Riding Hood was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who had directed Twilight three years prior. I'm not entirely sure Hardwicke realized she was directing a different movie; both movies feature supernatural killers, a love triangle between unbelievably simple and shallow characters, long moments where the plot seems to go out for doughnuts while the movie keeps going, and a very likely abusive relationship framed as if it were romantic. To its credit, Red Riding Hood was better than Twilight, but not by much.
Amanda Seyfried is a pretty talented actress. She was great in In Time, she was a lovable spunky young lady in Mama Mia!, and she was an excellent Cosette in Les Misérables. Gary Oldman is a stellar actor who is often the best part of most movies he's in. To be honest, they were both very good in Red Riding Hood, it's just that the script they had to work with was as insipid as it was dull. I can't imagine what drove each of them to be in this movie, I'm hoping they somehow didn't get to see a script before accepting the role or something. And get this; Billy Burke, who played Valerie's father, also plays Bella Swan's father in Twilight. He's not much better in Red Riding Hood.
The script was pretty awful. Valerie spent a lot of time fretting over what to do about the two men who want to have her in their lives. Peter and Henry have to act manly, virile, and try win Valerie's attention in each scene. Even the dialogue was awful; they actually talk about having crushes on other characters. They actually use the word "crush." This is the dark ages, not a modern middle school! This is what makes up a bulk of the script. Fortunately it's interrupted on occasion to remind us there is a werewolf in the movie; I think we actually get to see it two times. I liked the McCarthy-Era type paranoia they tried to incorporate as the villagers grow more distrusting of one another during the werewolf hunt. Uninteresting love triangles have become a trite cliché in movies recently. Red Riding Hood is not bad in scenes where the love triangle isn't the main focus, but unfortunately it is the main focus for a lot of the movie.
They did work in the classic elements of the original Little Red Riding Hood story in creative ways; the "what big teeth you have, Grandma" line, the red hooded cloak, don't talk to strangers in the woods, etc. You expect to see them in the movie, but when they do appear, they don't show up in a way you'd expect. It also made some allusions to other fairy tales that feature a "big bad wolf," which was neat. It's really about the only thing to get excited over.
Red Riding Hood was a disappointment. It could have been a good werewolf movie with a strong female protagonist, some great werewolf fight scenes, and a new twist on the classic fairy tale that so many enjoy. But no, this is basically just Twilight set during the dark ages. The special effects were lackluster at best. The werewolf was little more than a large CGI black wolf; no half-man-half-wolf thing going on at all. The whole village may as well have been middle school students by the way they talked. You may like Red Riding Hood if you're a fan of Twilight, but otherwise don't bother with this movie; it's just awful. It's not even worth borrowing from a friend.

Are there GOOD movies with a love triangle in it? I'm getting pretty fed up with them. I'd love to see one that was actually good, not overwrought and weepy. Can you think of one? Comment below and let me know!

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