I really, really, REALLY wanted to like Red Riding Hood. Sure, I knew it’d be more Gothic romance than gore, but hey! It’s got pretty Amanda Seyfried in it! And Gary Oldman! And I’m going to totally ignore that it’s directed by the same women who gave us that first mind-numblingly boring Twilight movie!
Anyway, I was hoping for an over-the-top version of Red’s trip through the woods, and since I’m one of the only people on the face of the earth who actually likes The Brothers Grimm, I thought there might be fair chance I’d be entertained, but it was not to be.
And so it goes: Amanda is Valerie (AKA Red), a young girl unsatisfied with her home life. She wants to run away from her very tiny town with smoldering best friend Peter, the woodsman (cue the first wolf reference of the film), played by the permanently smirking Shiloh Fernandez. But! There’s a wrinkle – Valerie has been promised to the town’s royalty or something…a blacksmith (??) named Henry, who I will now refer to as “the worst actor in the history of ever”, also known by the name Max Irons.
The town also has to sacrifice a pig to their resident wolf every full moon, or it will eat their daughters. Only on the last moon, Red’s sister got eaten anyway, so now everyone is living in fear. This leads the town’s priest, Father Auguste (a hand-wringing Lukas Haas) to contact an evil purple-velvet-clad Gary Oldman.
As Solomon, Oldman acts like a Catholic priest from the Spanish Inquisition (werewolves and witches, they’re the same, right?), who manically stalks around with a vague European accent. Oh yeah – he also carries his dead wife’s hand around with him because she was a werewolf, whose paw he cut off – and that’s how he found out (omg. seewhattheydidthereguys?). To complete the creep effect, he’s jammed some extremely unsightly silver fingernails into his hands. In other words, he’s the only sort-of interesting thing in the movie.
At this point I was so tired of watching Red run around distraught over her sister’s death while trapped between two men and on the verge of tears that I almost didn’t notice Virginia Madsen was playing her mother with some incredibly lush hair extensions, or that she actually traipsed THROUGH THE DAMN WOODS to get to her grandmother’s house (Julie Christie!??! Really? Has it come to this?) for advice – at which point she recieves the infamous red hooded cloak.
Moving on, the drunk menfolk hunt down and kill an average ordinary wolf, which leads the townspeople to throw a giant celebration, which in any movie not rated PG-13 would have led to an orgy, possibly with some furry action (3 women dressed as pigs, 1 dude w/a wolf head ‘huffing and puffing’ – etc.). In an effort to make Red jealous, pouty Peter saddles up to the town slut, which causes Red to grab her most awkward female friend and rub up against her in order to entice her lover…which um, doesn’t work. Mostly because it’s so awkward it’s laughable.
But enough with the boring “will she or won’t she” nonsense. FINALLY – the actual werewolf shows up. I was down with that because of the (mild amount of) carnage and the semi-decent CGI work….until the wolf. started. talking. Yes, that’s right. The wolf spoke to Red, and she understood it – although no one else did. Sorry Hardwicke, but any slight inclination I had toward the movie went right out the window the second that happened.
After that, the script continues to go downhill by switching gears from the romance angle to the “Who is the wolf?” angle, forcing us to gaze at closeups of everyone’s eyes so we can wonder if they are, indeed, half man/woman, half animal – and by cramming every reference to the original Red Riding Hood fairy tale in that it possibly can, in the most ridiculous way it can, until it diverges so wholly from the myth that’s it’s almost unrecognizable.
All of which would be fine if the movie was good in any way, but I honestly can’t say it was. So who is the wolf? I kind doubt anybody will even care – I know I didn’t. I was just relieved when it was all over.