Saturday, March 12, 2011

FILM REVIEW: Red Riding Hood

When Twilight first came out, critics and fans skewered Catherine Hardwicke's vision, complaining about the bad hairpieces, amateur wire work, and of course Edward's infamous glittery skin. She claimed that all of those gaffes could be attributed to her lack of funding. Handed $30mil to do this film, she was given a prime opportunity to redeem herself. Mission unaccomplished.

She had us all fooled. The trailer promised a beautiful Winter Wonderland with vibrant shots of color that seem to bleed through the screen. What we got instead was a set and performances that amounted to nothing more than bad theater. But that's that's not even the worst part. The worst part is that the "modernized" Red Riding Hood story she set out to tell was basically a Twilight clone.

Two guys—one seemingly good (Max Irons' Henry), one seemingly evil (Shiloh Fernandez's Peter), both prone to bad tempers—fall in love with the same girl, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried). One has her parents' approval, the other is looked down upon. She doesn't know which to trust, but she definitely loves one a lot more than the other. The one she chooses eventually becomes a monster and she consigns herself to a lifetime of being endangered by his true nature. It's as if Hardwicke was trying to prove that she could tell the Twilight story better. She cast Billy Burke as Valerie's dad. She made her wolf a gigantic dog. And it was telekinetic. It was a sad cry for approval, and a far less interesting rendering of the supernatural love triangle.

I was hoping that getting to see Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons for the first time on film might make it all worth while. But they weren't given much to work with and their performances were hardly memorable. Even Gary Oldman as the human villain Solomon hardly left an impression. Seriously, the most interesting part of the film was when he interrogated a mentally-challenged boy, believing him to be possessed, by locking him in a steal elephant and baking him to death. Sick and twisted.

But not as sick and twisted as who the murderer ended up being. His motives were ludicrous and disgusting. The allegory of Little Red Riding is the lust for a woman's innocence, and the lengths men will go to get it, hiding behind a guise to lure a woman into bed. Given the identity of the wolf, you'd be as grossed out by that connection as I was.

Hardwicke should stick to indies. She doesn't have that Guillermo del Toro or James Cameron or even J.K. Rowling vision to create a mystical place, and no amount of money will ever change that.

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