Red Riding Hood

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, random boytoys, the hollow shell of Gary Oldman
Review: 1 star, charitably (of five)

There’s nothing wrong with Red Riding Hood that burning every print of it (and probably the director and writer) wouldn’t fix. It’s laughably bad, but those laughs, which the script and “actors” do provide, are too few to make it worth seeing. It’s cynical, empty crap.

So there’s an unrealistic, isolated village in the middle of the forest of an undefined, probably European country in an undefined, probably medieval era, and it has been haunted by a werewolf for at least 20 years, but I think someone says “two generations,” so call it forty. Long time. Now, after decades of a truce in which the unseen wolf accepts animal sacrifices, it has begun killing humans again. And in the midst of this terrible tale of horror and monstrosity, a lone heroine rises. While the villagers around her cower or bluster, she rises up and does what needs to be done — she worries about her lame teenage romance with two astonishingly artificial Hollywood pretty boys.

Yeah, that’s your tale of Red Riding Hood versus the big, bad wolf: She spends the whole time deciding which carefully coifed doofus (nice to know they had hair gel in the faux Middle Ages) to kiss and have unthreatening sex scenes with. She only gets involved in the wolfier story when the wolf bumps into her, on the prowl, and says, oh, hi there. My, what a lousy script you’re shooting, Grandma Hardwicke.

The film also sets up a mystery—who is the werewolf? Most of the red riding herrings can be obviously eliminated (the wolf has been around for decades—it ain’t one of Red’s 20-year-old beaus). The actual solution is fairly obvious fairly early on, and by the time it’s revealed, amid some long-winded explanations of why the village’s status quo is upset now, we’re too bored to wonder how a person in a village with a smaller population than a midsized suburban high school managed to conceal his transformation three nights of the month without anyone getting suspicious.

If the Filmmakers Can Have Contempt for the Audience, So Can I!

A digression: The movie is obviously directed at teenage girls, courtesy of the hack who shot Twilight just for them (and for that bizarre cabal of aging soccer moms that also love their sparkly pouty teen vampires). It panders to them without a bit of edge, humor, self-awareness, genuine style or intelligence. It’s like, “Hey, you like pancakes? Here—I made you a pancake out of sawdust, motor oil and spit. I think you’re stupid enough to eat it.” I would like to imagine that even teenage girls are too smart for this.

(There’s a theory out there that the initial teen appeal of Twilight is in the chastity—it has all the brooding, forbidden longing of young romance, but stops short of the scary line where actual sex and all the changes and baggage that brings come in. I don’t know if that’s the secret, but looking at how this movie handles Amanda Seyfried’s inexplicable, lifeless romance with her Joaquin Phoenix wannabe, it seems the filmmakers read the same pompous book-section articles I did.)

Another Digression: Gary Oldman, What Are You Thinking?

Oh, by the way—Gary Oldman is in this thing, lending his bombastic talents to the role of witch-/wolf-hunting cleric. I always feel like Gary Oldman is a really good actor. He certainly seems to throw himself into whatever role he takes. But now I’m thinking, has Gary Oldman ever made a movie that didn’t suck? I mean, he has a bit part in the recent Batman movies, but he’s minor and, good as those films are, they’re just Hollywood blockbusters. Am I the only one who used to think Gary Oldman was, like, an actor? ‘Cause I just looked up his IMDB, and it’s not pretty. He’s made almost as many bad movies as the great Michael Caine, but nowhere near as many good ones.

Meanwhile, Back at the Review …

What was I saying? Oh, right—Red Riding Hood is shallow, overwrought, and not even slightly entertaining. What a black hole is to light and energy, this film is to talent and creativity.