No Grimm tale: Red Riding Hood’s latest adaptation lacks bark, bite and the basics.
Our expectations of Red Riding Hood are set in the first five minutes. A young Valerie (who will grow up to become the doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried) and a young Peter (who will grow up to become Taylor Lautner lite, Shiloh Fernandez) are hunting rabbits. In the mystical soft-lit forest of yore they capture a wee white bunny and hold a knife to its neck. “Do it,” Peter whispers. “No you,” Valerie says, as the camera pulls away and it fades to black. Just like our young protagonists, Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood doesn’t have the courage to deliver the goods.
Valerie is the pretty girl of the village. She falls in love with Peter, the poor woodcutter. But Valerie is promised to Henry (Max Irons,) the rich blacksmith. There are some other confusions, but mainly this dang wolf keeps attacking the village. Enter Solomon (Gary Oldman), revered werewolf hunter, who rolls in with his entourage and starts tearing the village apart. Now, this summary is misleading as it suggests some narrative cohesion when in fact the film awkwardly vacillates between Valerie’s familial drama, Solomon’s revenge quest and the lover’s triangle. But what else is to be excepted when the script is grounded in exposition? The entire film reeks of Hardwicke’s insecurity as a filmmaker, as characters constantly explain their actions and we are subjected to flashbacks of events that happened only moments before – like Memento, but without the memory loss. So perhaps Groundhog Day is a better analogy…In any case, not even Gary Oldman’s yelling can hide the ridiculous dialogue and Battlestar Galactica fans will cringe watching Michael Hogan play a diluted Colonel Saul Tigh as the misguided village leader, The Reeve.
Supposedly a tale of hidden sexual desires, Red Riding Hood is as neutered as a house cat. We can only hope this means it won’t be able to reproduce.
Kiva Reardon is film critic and blogger based in Toronto.