Twilight fans and teenage girls are definitely the demographic director Catherine Hardwicke is aiming for in this retelling of Red Riding Hood. It’s a timeless story starring gorgeous actors with current haircuts set to modern day techno-ambient music. Bearing that in mind, the film has a sustainable mystery and a lot of style to keep it afloat.
In this version, a village is under constant fear of a vicious werewolf, who is only sustained by offerings of livestock. Every full moon, the villagers hide in their homes and wait out the wolf’s coming until morning. Valerie is a lovesick young villager set to marry a rich blacksmith’s son (Max Irons) but in love with poor woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), with whom she’s grown up. Valerie and Peter attempt to elope but their plans are thwarted when Valerie’s sister is found dead by the hands of the wolf.
After the men of the village attempt to kill the wolf, the famed witch hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) arrives to prove them wrong. The plot then moves forward as expected with love triangles, wolf action sequences and a lot of wondering who actually “dunit”.
The production design is fairly amazing and the world Hardwicke creates is pretty beautiful, having the benefit of a Vancouver backdrop and strong costuming and set design. Everything has a surreal, otherworldly feel which is exactly how a fairy tale should be. The problem lies mostly in the script, written by David Johnson. They give us solid actors in the supporting roles with Oldman plus Billy Burke and Virginia Madsen as Valerie’s parents. Yet none of them have dialogue of any substance and what Oldman is given is mostly, dare I say it, overacted. Julie Christie has a better role and a better performance as Valerie’s grandmother. The newcomers, Irons and Fernandez, are adequate in their specific archetypes and Lukas Haas as the village priest is always a welcome addition to the cast. (Where does Fernandez get all his pomade though?)
But Little Miss Riding Hood, you sure are looking good. Amanda Seyfried is, as always, a standout in any role and this one does not let us down. Despite whatever flaws the script has (including some old timey dirty dancing), Seyfried is headed for the A list. We’ve seen her in some varied roles (think Chloe) and she’s proven she can carry a film.
I’m sure this film will suffer from the sheer contempt many have for the Twilight saga, but there is a place and time for this kind of film. Despite being a flawed attempt, a little romance and a little bit of fluff is okay once in awhile, as long as the protagonists are more along the lines of independent Valerie than helpless Bella.
Cat’s rating: 2.5/4