Four reviews and countless diatribes later, I think it’s pretty safe to say: I hate the Twilight movies and all things like them. I try to be objective about them, really I do. However, there is something about the bloodless, broken, soft-focus style of these films that simply makes them repellent to me.
But these are fantasy films. Their world is protected from my unending scorn by this simple fact. Just like in “Star Wars” or “Star Trek”, the world in these films operates under certain rules and attracts a set of fanatical followers who enjoy the films regardless of their content or quality.
“Red Riding Hood” easily resides in this world.
A Twilightization of the classic fairy tale, we meet our heroine, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) as a child and she’s a naughty girl. She’s not naughty in that “Please enter your credit card number here,” kind of way, but in that “willful and crazy in a probably dangerous” kind of way naughty. We first see her leaving the trail she’s been told to stay on for her own safety to muck about with her little boyfriend, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). While scampering about the woods – the puppy love is apparent – they trap a rabbit. Peter says he will make fur boots for her, but he is unable to kill the bunny. She takes the knife. Does she kill it? Cut to about ten years later. Valerie and Peter are young adults now and they obviously have the hot bananas for each other. He is now a wood cutter and she is… well, she is blonde and beautiful. But their smoldering love will have to wait: Valerie’s sister has been killed by the wolf that has been plaguing their town for generations.
Let the teen angst melodrama begin.
Along the way, we find out that Valerie is to be married off to another young man in town, Henry (Max Irons), her mom (Virginia Madsen) had an affair, her sister was only partially her sister, her father (Billy Burke) glowers and a monster-hunting priest (Gary Oldman) has been called to end the menace of the beast permanently.
For all my disdain, “Red Riding Hood” is not a bad movie. The visuals are beautiful and stylish… or as stylish as you can be in a medieval setting. Sometimes, they feel a little too stylish but that’s just my opinion. The acting is solid across the board. The triangle of Seyfried, Fernandez and Irons works well. There are convincing sparks between her and Fernandez and suitable disdain and later admiration between her and Irons. Oldman works his usual magic as the determined Solomon. He plays it close to the line but never crosses into Anthony Hopkins Van Helsing territory.
If there is any typecasting in the movie, it would be that of director Catherine Hardwicke, who came to this project right on the heels of her turn on “Twilight”. Not only did she come along, she brought the sets, style, format and more from that series to inject into this feature. In the words of my 14-year-old daughter (who I would gather is the target demographic), “Red Riding Hood” is the Team Jacob (for those not in the know, he’s a werewolf from that series) Twilight Movie. It doesn’t so much borrow from those movies as it outright steals from them. However, since Hardwicke was the original director in the series, I’m not sure that’s something that would stand up in court.
“Red Riding Hood” is a film that should occupy a high place in the universe it inhabits. It easily stands on the shoulders of the films that came before it improving on the formula, even if just marginally. Fans of that style should love it. I’m just not one of them.