Review: Red Riding Hood

When the soundtrack and the set designs are the best things happening in Red Riding Hood, that probably does not bode well for all the other elements encompassed in this 100 minute feature.

This over-stretched fantasy-horror take on the classic tale with the same title, should have signaled to someone watching the final cut, that certain properties are just not suited for the cinematic treatment. This attempt provided key evidence to that notion. Through the lens it looks good, but then characters open their mouths and fall victim to a script that was written in crayon.

Valerie/Little Red Riding Hood (Amanda Seyfried) has the typical fairy tale issue of dealing with forbidden love. She is infatuated with the orphaned village ax-men Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) but her parents (Billy Burke and Virginia Madsen) have chosen the wealthy, yet timid Henry (Max Irons). Meanwhile, the poor small village that resembles a township pulled out of any Frankenstein product – picture 1988’s Willow – lives in fear of the big bad wolf. The werewolf has been haunting their village for nearly twenty years. The village has made a pact with the beast, by offering animal sacrifices every full moon. However, every few years when the moon is blood red, the wolf snacks on human life.

And that’s where this story picks up, the wolf has struck again, killing a villager. Which usually means it will go away. Except the creature is not satisfied this time and seems to have an agenda. Knowing this, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) is summoned, at the behest of a young local priest (Luke Haas), and brings along a medieval posse . While Father Solomon begins to institute a Marshall law approach in the snow-covered town, Valerie encounters the wolf and begins to form a connection of sorts. A connection that has her grandmother (Julie Christie) very intrigued.

Without giving anything away, the story tries to shake things up at the end, as foreshadowed by the mysterious plot revolving around who is the big bad werewolf. Staying with this, the script and the performances never really sold any mystery angle. It’s not that one can guess who the wolf is, but after a certain point (halfway through) the audience will not be into the guessing game anymore. The ending drags and provides seldom emotion for any viewer to latch on to. It appears – and is executed – as if the studio ran out of money to finish the film.

This flick plays it straight and every angle is taken seriously. Which is nice to see, but the characters are drastically uneven and ruins the intended mood far too often. Perhaps having some fun with the material could have enhanced the tedious pace of this story. And then there’s continuity annoyances.

First off, this is a period piece, depicted during the time of knights, and when society and/or the church still persecuted witches. So how Shiloh and Max Irons manage to have boy-band styled hair is beyond ridiculous. Secondly, the dialogue written is delivered as if the only audiences that will see this sucker are grade-schoolers. Which then begs the question, why is this rated PG-13? Reason being, the CGI’d wolf shows up and sinks its teeth into a few people. And the occasional limb may fall off. Other than that, the script provides a balance of childish moments found in animations with faint dark images, which are then delivered in beautiful vibrant colors. Am I watching a horror flick or Saturday morning cartoons?

Is there anything to enjoy in Red Riding Hood? Yeah, Gary Oldman tries to inject some much needed life as his character portrays the anti-hero (more like hero-anti). Too bad the accent he enacts is tough to understand though. Amanda Seyfried (who I believe is a solid talent), is given nothing substantial to do here. It’s fine to keep the characters light, but the musical score – which played so often you may think you’re at Cirque show – tried to convince the audience that monumental moments were always happening. I’m afraid not folks.

Still, the way the cinematography was handled and the exploration of every nook and cranny of the well-designed village provided a bit of entertainment. The story can keep it together every now and then, but it definitely wears out its welcome. Especially when it turns into an “eye-examination.”

Overall, Red Riding Hood is its own worst enemy. The more it tried to add layers to an already simplistic tale, the faster it begins to lose its luster as movie. It went for the Sleepy Hollow approach. Ironically though, that said title is all Little Red amounted to. Sleepy and hollow.

RATING: 1.5 out of 5