Monday, March 28, 2011

RED RIDING HOOD (2011)

Written by David Leslie Johnson


Directed by Catherine Hardwicke


Where & When:  Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA, March 21, 2011 2:05PM



Everyone should be familiar with the classic fairy tale of "Little Red Riding Hood", the story of the little girl whose trip to her grandmother's house is interrupted by a big bad wolf. Now, Hollywood feels that there is a romance missing from that story, which brings us, "Red Riding Hood", the latest film that uses that tale for inspiration but is nothing more than a lame attempt to try and recreate the box office triumph of the "Twilight" films.

Amanda Seyfried plays Valerie, a beautiful young girl who lives in a secluded  medieval village. She is in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) who makes a modest living as a woodcutter. Valerie's parents ("Twilight"'s  Billy Burke and Virginia Madsen) don't approve of Peter because he can't properly provide for their daughter, so they are giving her hand to Henry (Max Irons, son of Jeremy), the son of a wealthy blacksmith.

Valerie and Peter plan on running away to be married when the alarm sounds, which means that the werewolf has struck. It has killed Valerie's older sister. The town is outraged because they had made a pact with the wolf to offer an animal sacrifice every month so that it would stay in the surrounding woods and leave the village in peace. A group of men, including Peter and Henry, set off to track down the werewolf and destroy it. They find a large wolf, kill it and cut off it's head but Henry's father is killed in the process.

The entire village celebrates that the werewolf is gone but it is short-lived with the arrival of Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) who was summoned to the town because he had experience dealing with these creatures. He informs them that they have not killed the wolf since the head would have turned back in to a human. He knows this first hand and show them the arm of a werewolf he had killed that also happened to have been his wife. Father Solomon tells them that the wolf has been living among them for years and it could be anyone.

Valerie becomes the prime target when after she is cornered by the wolf, she is able to communicate with it. Father Solomon discovers her secret and accuses her of being a witch. He sets her out as a sacrifice to lure the wolf so they can try to finally destroy it once and for all.

By the time we finally discover who the werewolf actually is, (it's the least likely suspect) and after they proceed to spend another ten minutes explaining their actions, I could care less.

Catherine Hardwicke has made a career of making films involving teenage angst which have included skateboarders ("Lords Of Dogtown"), sexually active girls ("Thirteen") and the mother of God ("The Nativity Story") but her biggest success involved the first film of the best selling books about the love triangle of a girl, a vampire and a werewolf. With her fifth film, she has attempted to try and recreate a slight variation of that winning formula but Ms Hardwicke has failed to realize that "Twilight"'s success had more to do about the hard-core fans of the book than her filmed version of it. "Twilight", the film was mediocre at best and it would be much too generous to call "Red Riding Hood" even that. Mr Johnson's illogical script didn't do Ms Hardwicke any favors by not offering a single moment that felt fresh, imaginative or unpredictable.

The actors are left to fend for themselves which leads to a variety of different accents and acting styles, making the film feel even more disjointed. Mr. Oldman, a terrific actor who showed so much promise at the beginning of his career, has become Britain's version of Nicolas Cage who seems willing to take part in any movie for the paycheck. The wonderful Julie Christie makes an appearance as Valerie's eccentric grandmother who gives her the red riding hood and I'm sure, in her case at least, she is taking the best of what is available to her.

My favorite cinematic take on the "Riding Hood" story is a low-budget little gem called "Freeway" (1996). It was set in Los Angeles that stared a young Reese Witherspoon as a trashy teenage girl who is trying to get to her grandmother's house but is being chased by a serial killer played by Kiefer Sutherland. It was filled with sex, violence and  great humor and I loved it. If you have never seen this film, do yourself a favor and put "Freeway" on your Netflix queue.

As far as "Red Riding Hood" is concerned, it should be dropped in the middle of a deep, dark forest, never to see the light of day again.