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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Lukas Haas, Billy Burke, Julie Christie, Virginia Madsen, Max Irons, Shiloh Fernandez
DIRECTED BY
Catherine Hardwicke
SCREENPLAY
David Johnson
MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13
RUNNING TIME
100 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Warner Brothers
 "Red Riding Hood" Review 
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It could be the wolf stereotype. After all, The Independent Critic does link to WolfPreservation.com right from our home page.

But, nah.

It could be the incredibly grim take on an incredibly old fairy tale.

Nah, not that either.

It's simple, really.

Red Riding Hood sucks.

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a rather innocent only child after her sister is killed by the beast, a beast only made horrifying by the fact that a group of studio execs sat around a large, over-priced table and decided the beast and this awful tale were both worthy of a nationwide release. The beast spoke telepathetically (Yes, the typo is intentional) to Valerie, raising suspicion that Valerie may be part of the problem.

Oh, and have I mentioned that Valerie's a bit of a hottie whose mother (Virginia Madsen, whose career isn't so much going Sideways as it is straight down) has arranged for her to marry the sensitive Peter (Max Irons) despite her own "hubba hubba" desires to run off with bad boy hottie Peter (Shiloh Fernandez).

The beast has long plagued the village, but the village has enjoyed a bit of a peaceful co-existence thanks to their monthly animal sacrifices that seem to have kept the beast satisfied. However, under a blood red moon (Of course!) the beast takes life and the panicked village calls in Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), a famed werewolf hunter.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to write a review while snickering?

Truth be told, I struggled with following the film - not because it was complex, but because the complete and utter silliness of it all kept me chuckling and distracted. While director Catherine Hardwicke has proven she can handle intense, weighty material (Thirteen), she's also proven that she can't (Twilight, The Nativity Story). Here, Hardwicke goes from mismanaging the material to turning it into a cinematic junkyard.

There's a touch of Red Riding Hood that may very well resonate with the same crowd that swears upon the cinematic legitimacy of the Twilight films (I call them teenagers). However, my gut is telling me that even teenagers will be hard-pressed to find much to appreciate about this melodramatic, silly and badly acted mess.

Because Red Riding Hood is rated PG-13, virtually every aspect of its production is a timid, pale version of the film this story should be. While it's doubtful that anyone will enter the theater expecting an actual faithful version of the original fairy tale, neither will they be expecting this kinder, gentler version of a werewolf story where it would seem the young woman who was murdered may have been the luckiest one of all since she didn't have to sit around until the end of the film.

Amanda Seyfried is appropriately innocent, but that's about all the talented actress manages to pull off here. Seyfried dumbs it down dramatically, sort of like Natalie Portman in a Star Wars flick or even the more talented than you might think Kristen Stewart. I'm sure Seyfried had some sort of romanticized justification for taking on this role, or at least one can only hope it actually looked better on paper.

Not quite surprisingly, Gary Oldman chews scenery more convincingly than the werewolf chews flesh and with infinitely more energy and inspiration. One would think studios would have learned by now not to cast Oldman in roles where the actor can go over-the-top...he WILL go over the top, and it's never pretty when it happens. Oldman is an immensely talented actor, but when a director doesn't manage him well it nearly always ends badly.

Screenwriter David Johnson's first screenplay, the underwhelming yet unique Orphan, had a certain style and pizzazz that kept you watching and, for the most part, the characters were at elast modestly interesting. Here, it constantly feels like Red Riding Hood can't decide if it wants to be a campy B-movie or an outright Twilight rip-off.

Ultimately, it fails across the board.

There's no question that my friend Michael Heath, publisher of WolfPreservation.com, won't be thrilled with yet another negative, stereotypical portrayal of wolves. While the film's portrayal of wolves is dastardly, the real travesty is that Warner Brothers is trying to portray this as a film worth watching.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
    • A- to B+: 3.5 Stars            
    • B: 3 Stars                         
    • B- to C+: 2.5 Stars           
    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

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