Valerie (Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter (Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Irons). Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter are planning to run away together when they learn that Valerie's older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village. For years, the people have maintained an uneasy truce with the beast, offering the creature a monthly animal sacrifice. But under a blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Oldman), to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon's arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them. As the death toll rises with each moon, Valerie begins to suspect that the werewolf could be someone she loves. As panic grips the ... Written by
Warner Bros. Pictures
The question that kept on running through my mind was not who the wolf was, but rather who cares who the wolf was?
The plot of Catherine Hardwicke's "Red Riding Hood" revolves around a series of massacres and a pressing question. The said massacres being caused by a werewolf and the said question being who the wolf is. But as I watched it, the question that kept on running through my mind was not who the wolf was, but rather who cares who the wolf was? This is a very flabby-footed, self-delusional mess of a movie that succeeds in making even the great Gary Oldman look as unnatural in his performance as Steven Seagal.
"Red Riding Hood" suffers from a poorly-constructed screenplay, one that seems was written within a handful of days and not given a single second of revision. The writer, David Johnson, was a production assistant on Frank Darabont's masterpiece "The Shawshank Redemption" but his talents seem to be more focused on polishing up a movie rather than spinning up a story. The plot of "Red Riding Hood" is contrived, flat, and lacking any zest. In fact, even though the denouement has great potential to be a real shocker and (I'll be honest) caught me by surprise, it was handled and executed so sloppily and the writing that summarizes it all up was so flimsy and manipulative, that it registered no impact on me whatsoever.
There are no characters worth caring about and next to nothing in terms of acting. The titular character is played by an up-and-coming starlet by the name of Amanda Seyfried, although if all of her performances are as uncharismatic and dull as this one, I cannot imagine why. In this performance, at least, she did not strike me as being a natural actress. Then again, she has nothing to work with in Mr. Johnson's screenplay. She also has two romantic interests, one played by Max Irons and the other by a wooden-faced Shiloh Fernandez. They are just as boring as their characters. They have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever with Miss Seyfried; I never felt any passion. Even Gary Oldman, so good so many times before, is awful here, hamming up and chewing apart every scene that he is in. His introductory moment, where he explains his experiences with werewolves, is handled by him in a way that is so over-the-top, almost like a really bad vaudeville performance. It's hard to believe that this is the same actor from "The Dark Knight," "The Book of Eli," and the Harry Potter movies.
If there is one good performance at all it is by Julie Christie, who is just as magnetic and wonderful as she was when she graced the screen in David Lean's "Doctor Zhivago" forty-six years ago. She has a powerful star presence and quality that allows her to overcome even the trashy dialogue and nothingness that she was supplied.
Another strike against the movie is the apparent lack of experience by its director, Catherine Hardwicke. She was a production designer before this movie (she designed the wonderful town reconstruction for "Tombstone" in 1993) but her skills with a motion picture camera are next to nothing. She doesn't seem to even know the basics about misc en scene and how to structure a sequence. Not even enough to know that a moment where Mr. Oldman gives a last minute warning to a stubborn old villager about the impending threat of the werewolf that she should have had a reverse angle to show the villager's reaction; instead she chooses to stick to the back of his head. There is no steady flow of images here, with too many medium and long shots and close-ups so claustrophobic that they enter the territory of being loony. One scene that was directed particularly badly was a laughable love moment between Miss Seyfriend and Mr. Fernandez. There is a problem with a romantic moment where the sight of two people making love is neither heart-warming, nor, obviously, erotic.
But Miss Hardwicke did coordinate well with her production designer, for the sets are quite good. And the special effects are decent enough in and of themselves. The werewolf, computer-generated of course, are much better than the cartoony wolves I saw in "Season of the Witch" earlier this year. It's only a shame that that wolf was not on-screen more.
"Red Riding Hood" has a feel of so many medieval melodramas of recent years: half-hearted and flimsy. It is also crippled by that haunting feeling that even the people who made the movie would not even want to see it. It feels like an assignment done by people hopelessly unhappy in their work, who just wanted to get through the dailies so they could go home and relax before getting up to do the same thing again the next day.
11 of 15 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?