Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: March 11, 2011 Released by: Warner Brothers
The very popular Amanda Seyfried ("Letters To Juliet") has adamantly said that her new dark romantic fantasy is no medieval "Twilight." Some would beg to differ in an arguably exploitative, preposterous spin on a classic fairy tale.
"Red Riding Hood" is directed by the same of the aforementioned film - Catherine Hardwicke (see "Thirteen") and also stars Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Gary Oldman, Virginia Madsen and Julie Christie.
It's set in the verdant forest medieval hamlet of Daggerhorn haunted for two generations by a werewolf as the young Valerie (Seyfried) falls for orphaned woodcutter Peter (Fernandez). Her disgusted family has positioned her to wed upper-class Henry (Irons) even as Daggerhorn continually makes sacrifices to beast to keep their population from diminishing.
Under Hardwicke's insipid guidance, a halfhearted love triangle scenario develops as Seyfried has the misfortune of coming on too strong in a dreary way with much muted narration trying to generate plenty of emotion from her extended eyes. Perhaps if "Red Riding Hood" came out about a decade or so ago one could imagine the likes of Christina Ricci leading this kind of enterprise to drain more dollars out of its target audience.
This muffled misfire, unsettlingly tweaked with racial and sexual undertones by scribe David Leslie Johnson either gets nuttier or risible with a tyrannical wolf slayer in Oldman ("The Book of Eli," "The Unborn"). His minions speak in broken English with a large iron elephant in tow to rid the village of a creature who kills Valerie's sister as the culprit is purported to be one of its own.
Maybe Valerie can tell who it is by giving them a really good look-it seems that of her hot suitors Peter may be favored by more of the expected tweener contingent over Henry. But, could the beast be familial or someone in amicable she hangs around with?
Billy Burke (as Bella's sheriff dad from "Twilight") seems disinterested here as Valerie's dad as an embarrassment of egregiousness mounts. Action or horror aficionados will find this hokum rather tepid on the blood and violent quotients. Maybe if the one-note, ever emotive Seyfried is too much than the unfortunate Oldman turns the kind of supercilious, hammy portrait to help inject a little campy zest. A werewolf tale suffused with teen romance bows down to youth pop culture which intended to be an involving, naughty, edgy one.
Madsen as the Valerie's distraught mom and Christie as her creepy grandma are hung out to dry as the line-readings and storytelling drag them and everyone else down. It doesn't help that Fernandez and Irons make Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner look more like acting icons. The shoddy visuals (extensive soundstage usage) and CGI for the settings and occasional werewolf attacks might start to explain how to steeply downgrade a fable metaphorically and emotionally ripe to raid its large, unassuming audience.
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