'Red Riding Hood': No fairy-tale magic in this 'Twilighty' tale
A review of the pretty but pedestrian fairy-tale movie "Red Riding Hood," starring Amanda Seyfried.
Seattle Times movie critic
'Red Riding Hood,' with Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez, Virginia Madsen, Max Irons, Lukas Haas, Julie Christie. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson. 100 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality. Several theaters.
What big eyes you have, Amanda Seyfried! That's essentially what we're left with by the end of Catherine Hardwicke's odd fairy tale "Red Riding Hood," starring the angel-eyed Seyfried as our crimson-cloaked heroine. It's a pretty movie, and a nicely timed one (the wolf, in true "Twilight" fashion, is really a werewolf), but it's not clear who its audience is. The "Twilight" teens may find insufficient romance, other than one brief sequence of Seyfried and the equally swoony Shiloh Fernandez canoodling in "the soft hay in the granary" (now why didn't Bella and Edward think of that?); while those seeking a thriller — as "Red Riding Hood" has been marketed — may find the movie rather dour and dull, despite the numerous dead bodies that litter it.
Seyfried plays Valerie, a young woman living in a vaguely medieval village with her mother (Virginia Madsen) and woodcutter father (Billy Burke, better known as the father in — you guessed it, "Twilight"). (With the exquisite Madsen as her mother and Julie Christie as her grandmother, it's clear Valerie comes from a fairly impressive blond gene pool; you find yourself wondering what Great-Grandmother looked like.) Valerie's in love with a poor woodcutter named Peter (Fernandez), but told she must marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons). Meanwhile, an errant (were)wolf is wandering the village and killing people every half-moon, and Grandmother unexpectedly gives Valerie the gift of a bright-red cloak — the better to spot her on the snowy trails of the woods, I guess.
Hardwicke's directing career has encompassed ups ("Thirteen"), downs ("The Nativity Story") and one very big franchise (she directed the first "Twilight" movie, and the only one in the series that seemed to really grasp the scent of the books' love-it-or-hate-it breathy perfume). She's the obvious choice to direct this movie, with its looming metaphors of teen sexuality and danger in the woods. But she's stuck with a plodding screenplay by David Leslie Johnson ("Orphan") and a movie that has little reason to exist, other than as a showcase for Seyfried's uncannily beautiful face, framed prettily in red, and as the latest in a line of fairy tales on the big screen. (It follows "Beastly," and will be followed by two new versions of "Snow White" — one starring Kristen "Bella" Stewart.)
Here, the wolf looks very CGI; the voice-over (by Seyfried) is oddly inconsistent (as is the inexplicable accent of Gary Oldman as a visiting werewolf hunter, whose dramatic high point comes when he gets to intone the line "That is not a werewolf"); the romance between Valerie and Peter feels generic, despite all that soft hay; and the mystery of whom the wolf might be droops too soon. By its end, "Red Riding Hood" feels like a time-travelling "Twilight" prequel — one that wasn't needed.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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