Unintentionally a Laughable Thriller, ‘Red Riding Hood’ Proves ‘Twilight’ Formula Can Flop

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Average: 2 (2 votes)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.5/5.0
Rating: 1.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Catherine Hardwicke, who only directed the first “Twilight” and none of the following franchise films because she felt rushed and financially constrained, has cleverly figured out how to make another “Twilight” under the guise of the name “Red Riding Hood”.

Even “A”-lister Gary Oldman – who has curiously accepted the role of god’s good werewolf slayer – deserves better than to be grouped with this film’s teen-targeted talent. While he’s certainly the film’s highest-caliber artist, Oldman’s presence is nonetheless disappointing and still only scratches the surface of saving this film flop.

Amanda Seyfried in Red Riding Hood
Amanda Seyfried in “Red Riding Hood”.
Image credit: Kimberly French

In a time when vampires and their foes are all the rage, Hardwicke’s modern-day “Red Riding Hood” transforms the Big Bad Wolf into a werewolf. (The earliest, 17-century version of the beloved story used an actual wolf whereas later versions have used ogres or a “bzou,” which we know as a werewolf.)

Hardwicke has even cast a Robert Pattinson lookalike named Shiloh Fernandez who you’re likely as familiar with as you are the taste of your own urine. She’s even imbued him with another forbidden love story with Kristen Stewart replacement Amanda Seyfried from “Mamma Mia!” fame. Ironically, Shiloh’s role of Peter was even considered by “Twilight” hunk Taylor Lautner who’s remembered for his inability to wear a shirt so he can flaunt his airbrushed abs.

Though the story of Red Riding Hood is a well-loved children’s classic, Hardwicke’s “Red Riding Hood” proves the “Twilight” formula isn’t always a surefire bet. While her audience is the same “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” teen clan, the film’s failure is its billing as a fantasy, horror and Hitchcock-esque mystery/whodunit. This should have been a comedy. Instead, it delivers the worst mistake a thriller film can: an unintentional comedy that forces you to laugh in mockery.

Shiloh Fernandez in Red Riding Hood
Shiloh Fernandez in “Red Riding Hood”.
Image credit: Kimberly French

Even the Wizard of Oz and every adult-proportional dwarf in Munchkinland would see through this botched attempt to Hollywoodize the classic that is “Little Red Riding Hood” (lesser known as “Little Red Cap”). Munchkins everywhere would eject the film back to the drawing board instead of yielding a product that bombs at capitalizing on the “Twilight” fad.

While “Australia” cinematographer Mandy Walker is to be credited for bringing a mostly snowy environment alive, she’s constrained by what feels like an inauthentic and clearly fabricated set. You know something’s gone visually awry when you’re unable to suspend your belief for a couple hours and the set you’re seeing isn’t successfully covered up. So aware that this movie is a movie instead of the temporary reality good films sell you on, you’re almost surprised not to see a boom operator or craft services on screen.

Just as many classic fairy tales effectively appeal to children while intriguing adults when they learn of much darker undertones (everyone knows why those hippies always craved Scooby Snacks), “Little Red Riding Hood” attempts to be no exception. But fails.

Amanda Seyfried and Shiloh Fernandez in Red Riding Hood
Amanda Seyfried (left) and Shiloh Fernandez in “Red Riding Hood”.
Image credit: Kimberly French

In its classic folklore, the Big Bad Wolf typically leaves grandma’s blood and meat for Little Red Riding Hood to unknowingly cannibalize her own bloodline. And while her red hood has been interpreted to represent the bright sun that’s ultimately swallowed by the frightful night (represented by the wolf), the story has been famously varied where she’s devoured and then sliced out of the wolf’s belly. This final act represents the dawn.

But these deliciously interesting variations don’t make it into Hardwicke’s “PG-13” version. Instead, we’re subjected to some typical action violence, cheesy creature terror and sensuality. The film’s sexytime smacks of a soft porn in a 1900s hut with a smoldering fire positioned on screen so we’re to believe it wasn’t placed there on purpose.

While the CGI-based Big Bad Wolf only speaks to Valerie (Amanda Seyfried as Little Red Riding Hood) through telepathy (but of course!), thankfully the film doesn’t try to move the animal’s lips and at least affords the creature with decent special effects.

Gary Oldman in Red Riding Hood
Gary Oldman in “Red Riding Hood”.
Image credit: Kimberly French

And the violence is interestingly tasteful. Hardwicke’s one redeeming decision in this film is her restraint with its gore. She implies it without showing it. The film didn’t need blood to construe a slasher scene. Given the film’s rating and mission, it’s a respectable and surprising directorial decision.

But as for the kid question about this film, Hardwicke’s “Red Riding Hood” is doubly damaging for teenaged bambinos. She’s dangerously flirting in the grey matter of the children versus adult debate while transforming a genuinely acceptable children’s story into what would be for a 10-year-old a terrifying experience. This film is ideally aged for high schoolers and beyond.

Amanda Seyfried in Red Riding Hood
Amanda Seyfried in “Red Riding Hood”.
Image credit: Kimberly French

StarMore reviews from Adam Fendelman.

The film’s screenplay from “Orphan” writer David Johnson is an insulting downplaying of language for teens that assumes its demographic can’t comprehend a more intelligently constructed story. From the onset, the film even ambiguously neglects to clearly set the year and location.

You’re left to assume it’s perhaps a hundred years ago in a time without electricity and with arranged marriages between the pretty girl and the most eligible male “provider” with the best income. In all, safe directorial and story decisions spew out a film you don’t buy into and care about by the time you hit the bathroom just out of the theater.

“Red Riding Hood” stars Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie, Virginia Madsen, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Shauna Kain, Michael Hogan, Adrian Holmes, Cole Heppell, Christine Willes, Michael Shanks and Kacey Rohl from director Catherine Hardwicke and writer David Johnson. The film, which is rated “PG-13” for violence, creature terror and some sensuality, was released on March 11, 2011 with a running time of 120 minutes.

HollywoodChicago.com publisher Adam Fendelman


© 2011 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com LLC

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