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March 18, 2011 > Movie Review: Superficial "Red Riding Hood" Disappoints

Movie Review: Superficial "Red Riding Hood" Disappoints

By Mekala Raman

Since her departure from the vampire series that stole thousands of teen hearts, Twilight fans and foes alike have been holding their breath for Catherine Hardwicke's next project. The trailer promised a movie chock-full of suspense, mild violence, forbidden passion, sweet romance, and thrilling creature fantasy. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, the film does not deliver.

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), a pretty, adventurous blonde from the village of Daggerhorn is in a quandary-she is betrothed to the wealthy blacksmith Henry (Max Irons) while her heart belongs to her best friend and true love Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) the woodcutter. Following the obvious course of action, the two make plans to run away together. But Daggerhorn has long been plagued by an evil werewolf and Valerie's sister becomes the beast's latest victim. This puts Valerie's moving plans on hold.

In desperation, the villagers call in a ridiculous religious fanatic Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) who has slain a werewolf in the past, making him the reigning expert in the field. After his chilling, albeit unsurprising, disclosure that the culprit is, in fact, someone within the village, he sets up shop-meaning a merciless group of henchmen and a torture chamber-and ends up wreaking more havoc upon the village than the dreaded werewolf.

During one of the werewolf's rampages, Valerie finds out that for some reason she can communicate with the monster. The creature asks Valerie to run away with it (reminiscent of Peter's pleas) promising to leave the village out of harm's way should she agree. The rest of the movie is spent throwing suspicion on many of the townspeople Valerie comes in contact with, including her fabled grandmother (Julie Christie).

Although inventive, this "grown-up" adaptation of the childhood fairytale falls flat. The main characters are not developed, with minimal depth reserved for some of the supporting characters. The relationship between Valerie and Peter seems mechanical and the chemistry between Seyfried and Fernandez is not convincing. Fernandez shows little emotional range throughout the movie. Irons leans very heavily on his puppy-dog eyes. Julie Christie, however, does play a convincing, quirky grandmother.

Seyfried makes the best of the role she was given. Her big blue eyes, set off very well by her iconic red cape, work in her favor to make it seem like she constantly takes in the village goings-on. In the end, her portrayal of Valerie remains somewhat two-dimensional. She is just a 21st century damsel-in-distress who can take of herself, but needs the boys to help her out.

The script is nuance-free, spelling out every detail and twist through the characters' lines. Those looking for a fairytale romance, be warned, the movie is surprisingly gory. Prepare for blood and plenty of suggestive sound effects. Suspense is limited so enjoy the few heart-pounding moments. In a somewhat distracting touch, all villagers speak with conspicuous American accents, heightened by the foreign accents of Gary Oldman and his crew. In addition, the music has a contemporary feel as does the movie's tribal and trancelike celebratory dance scene, all of which clash oddly with the apparent medieval setting of the story.

On the plus side, Hardwicke has managed to maintain a keen eye for beautiful North American landscapes in Red Riding Hood. The opening bird's eye view of endless forest, rushing rivers reflecting gleaming rays of sunshine and rolling mountains, seemingly untarnished nature, is breathtaking.

Aesthetics aside, Red Riding Hood is a shallow rendering of an otherwise interesting concept. The film keeps you at arm's length and is an awkward attempt at fusing medieval setting with contemporary themes, ultimately sending you from the theater unsatisfied.

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 102 mins.

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