Red Riding Hood, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, is a loose adaption of the infamous and often gruesome folktale that dates back from before the 17th century, set during medieval times, in a village deep in the forest.
Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) a spirited, beautiful young girl who’s heart belongs to a mere woodcutter, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), grows up in this small community that has a dark presence casting a cold shadow upon it. A werewolf who up until now held a truce with the villagers, but decided to come back and has killed Valerie’s sister. The villagers rise up and trek to a cave, where they believe it lives, to kill it.
During this time Valerie learns her sister was in love with a boy named Henry (Max Irons), who Valerie is actually betrothed, much to her disappointment. Her mother Suzette (Virginia Madsen) and father Cesaire, (Billy Burke) both believe the engagement to Henry is for the best as he can give her the life Peter never could.
It does sound like every other fairy tale film you’ve ever heard before; of this I’m sure. However, there are no wicked stepparents, or evil king or queen, or magician. There is only the omnipresent werewolf that the villagers think they have killed. That is until famed werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) arrives in the village in his ominous carriage with guards equally so.
Turn to page 83 in your Salem Witch Hunt Handbooks, for Gary Oldman brings on his famous psycho personae, and turns the villagers home town into the setting for the Spanish Inquisition…‘Light’. I say this for the action that transpires is more like skim milk, lacking any true flavor.
The setting for the film is hazy, yet rich in texture, perfect for a fairytale, but the storyline (that we all know so well) is muddled in sugar-coated 12 year-old girly mystique. There is no meat, just grizzle. There is no real “horror”, even thought the film is billed as being such. Julie Christie however, who plays Valerie’s grandmother, brings her “A” game to the party and you can feel the depth to her character. Besides Christie and Gary Oldman I can’t say the same for the rest. Seyfried plays the tough, damsel in distress well enough, but emotions never run deep enough in her portrayal. I felt more from her in Jennifer’s Body, which is the only reason I enjoyed that film. As for Madsen and Burke, they do play a special role, but their screen time is meager.
Valerie’s dilemma of being torn between two lovers scenario, is fluffy Twilight-esque filler for the burgeoning teen set. Just like Twilight, it’s all tease and anticipation. Adults won’t be titillated whatsoever. Well, maybe some will.
A line of dialogue spoken in the film that should have had some meaning was “All sorrows are lessened with bread”, uttered twice by wise grandmother and compounded with Valerie echoing them. Such specific words spoken usually lend to foreshadowing, however there was none for these words of wisdom. Leaves you wondering why on earth did they bring this seemingly important line to our attention. Sorrow equals tears. Tears are salty. Bread absorbs the salt. Okay. But what’s the point? If there were more action to be had in this film, maybe I wouldn’t be so nitpicky. I also think one of the villagers got there fairytales mixed up because I could have sworn I hear “I’ll huff and puff and blow your house in…” at one point.
Another scene has Valerie saying those famous lines from the folktale that begin with “What big eyes you have…” This, her red coat, her grandmother, and one other thing I won’t mention in order to keep the review spoiler free, are really the only ways this tale resembles the original. But what is the original really? The story has been changed around so many times over the years. One wishes they would have adhered to the ‘gruesome’ aspect, as it would have added a much needed layer of drama. I give the film this much…Red Riding Hood keeps you guessing (pretty much) until the end who the big bad wolf actually is, cause trust me you’ll be trying throughout the entire film.
That’s where this film falls short; you’re so much more interested in this fact that what’s transpiring in front of you because it doesn’t grip your attention as much as it could have.
Running time: 100 minutes
Red Riding Hood Trailer: