RED RIDING HOOD
In a medieval village, beautiful young Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is torn between two men: her choice is Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the financially secure Henry (Max Irons). Valerie and Peter plan to run away together when they learn that Valerie's older sister has been killed by the werewolf that has prowled the dark forest surrounding their village for years. Until now, the villagers have offered the creature a monthly animal sacrifice. But under a blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the villagers call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), who warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them. Valerie fears that the werewolf could be someone she loves.
Review by Andrew L. Urban :
Once upon a time in a fairytale, there was a little girl who took a picnic basket of food to her bed-ridden grandma (with big eyes, ears and teeth) across the forest, where she was chased by a big bad wolf. It takes a woodcutter to save her ... This fairy tale takes a pounding from the natives of Hollywood, turned into a loosely related story of a werewolf terrorising a medieval village. What remains of the original - a red hooded cape and a nightmare which includes that famous exchange between girl and grandma about teeth etc - is welded crudely onto a somewhat derivative story of a werewolf amongst humans.
With Twilight behind her, director Catherine Hardwicke has experience in the supernatural world of vampires and werewolves, although here there are no vampires. Still, the love triangle that works so well for Twilight gets a make-over in which Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) has fallen for childhood sweetheart Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), the tree chopper, while her parents have promised her to Henry (Max Irons), son of a well to do merchant in the village.
The story doesn't really kick off until Valerie's sister is found dead, when the village sets out to take its revenge, even before werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) arrives with his private army of heavies and a metal elephant inside whose empty belly sinners are cooked until they confess to witchcraft.
But this werewolf has a backstory, with links to his first human victim and his present preoccupation with Valerie. We are thrown several red herrings as to the human identity of the beast and in the final showdown it all comes together as it might in an afternoon soap opera.
If production design and cinematography were enough, this would be a striking success of a film. Hardwicke's extensive experience in production design has served her well in briefing Thomas E. Sanders, who has built a world at once bucolic and splendid - as well as edgy, with spikes everywhere, from tree trunks to house fittings. Acclaimed Australian cinematographer Mandy Walker gives us some fabulous, eye-pleasing images, using lighting and colour to generate impact.
It's the squirming little maggots in the screenplay that bog the film down and blunt its interest value. Father Solomon is presented more like a raging Sheriff of Nottingham (with a couple of black dudes as his bouncers) than a man of the cloth helping his flock, creating dynamic problems for the story. The simplistic storytelling eventually wears thin - thin enough to be taken as sheer escapism with nothing meaty to say
The cast of fine actors all work a treat, even though many come from differing styles, like Virginia Madsen (playing Valerie's mother) and Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried and Julie Christie (who plays grandma).
The werewolf is a big hairy thing with burning eyes ... OK, not too original but hey, it's a wereworlf. The village and its picturesque setting is beautifully realised, but we never feel we can trust the filmmakers to give us the truth of the story elements; there's always a cinematic sleight of hand scraping away at the scenes.
There is, nonetheless, some entertainment value in Red Riding Hood, but don't go expecting it to blow you away; it's not as romantic as Twilight and it's not as threatening, either.
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RED RIDING HOOD (M)
CAST: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas, Julie Christie, Shauna Kain
PRODUCER: Leonardo DiCaprio, Alex Mace, Julie Yorn
DIRECTOR: Catherine Hardwicke
SCRIPT: David Leslie Johnson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mandy Walker
EDITOR: Nancy Richardson, Julia Wong
MUSIC: Alex Heffes, Brian Reitzell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Thomas E. Sanders
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 24, 2011