Red Riding Hood, her new film starring Amanda Seyfried in the title role, reeks of the kids from Forks, Washington. The supremely formulaic fiasco is equal parts Twilight, Benecio Del Toro’s The Wolfman and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village.
Set in a fairytale village where a wolf monster has plagued the townspeople for decades, Red Riding Hood begins promisingly. Swooping camerawork flying over the fantastic landscape beckons you to a better film than the mundane one you’ll see. Valerie (Seyfried) is a tomboy who’s been promised to one boy (Max Irons, Jeremy’s son) but is in love with another (Shiloh Fernandez). We should all have such problems.
Of course, life is thrown into a tizzy when Valerie’s sister is found killed by the wolf. However, we have to take it on faith, since the PG-13 rating apparently made them throw a few streaks of fake blood on the girl’s dress and call it a day.
Suddenly, everyone starts acting very suspiciously, including Grandmother (Julie Christie), Mom (Virginia Madsen), Father Auguste (Lukas Haas) and both suitors. It is up to crusading wolf-slayer/perverted priest Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) to root out evil in all the wrong places and still not find the wolf man.
For a town so prone to paranoia that they’ll lock up whoever Solomon says to, the villagers aren’t so smart. Once told that the wolf is one of them, a simple roll call of who was there and not lupine should have unmasked the monster immediately. Agatha Christie did not write the screenplay, suffice it to say, but a surprise ending is still intended when the wolf reveals itself.
Seyfried is a lovely centerpiece, and her boy toys are definitely dreamy. Christie creates nice suspense with her character, although why an old woman would live way out in exile is never explained. Also, it seems odd that Grandmamma would give Valerie a scarlet cloak, when it just makes the town nags call her a witch and a strumpet. The bloodletting is particularly bloodless, which would normally not bother me except that it looks so cheesy. Red Riding Hood has an okay pace and had the potential to be a new classic fairy tale. Instead, it’s as bland as Little Miss Muffet’s curds and whey.
UPDATE: Red Riding Hood is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.