No trips to Grandma’s were necessary at all.
I admit I was totally pumped to go see Red Riding Hood. I fished a dollar out of the change jar to refill my loyalty cup and braved the Friday night crowds at the theater just to savor all the wonderfulness that is fairytale meets werewolf. It all sounded so amazing to finally see a movie that encompassed two of my favorite bits of fantasy.
I picked Raspberry Tea for my dollar refill, was able to get the coveted ultra-center seat in the theater, and made my mental notes of movies to see and movies to avoid through the previews. Unfortunately Red Riding Hood didn’t even get a chance to get started before my excitement was shattered. In the early credits floated across a name that was able to ruin an entire film all by itself. Catherine Hardwicke. Her name is still soured in my head because of the Twilight endeavor. But I decided to give her a chance. Every director is allowed a regrettable flick. Even Steven Spielberg did Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. (Aliens? Really? I mean, really?)
My faith in Hardwicke fell a little bit when, as in Twilight, her movie began with an innocent-sounding young (ish) girl giving a heartfelt, melodramatic, disembodied voice-over while the camera swooshed over a dark and abandoned landscape. Still that method had been used to great success in other movies. There was still hope.
Then the rest of the characters started speaking. Within the first twenty minutes of the movie, I realized that either Hardwicke’s movies grant me magical psychic abilities or she picks poorly written and transparent scripts. From the get-go, the whole plot line of the movie was painfully obvious to anyone who has ever read a romance novel. Or seen a movie with a little bit of romance. Or heard someone partially describe a movie in which there was a man and a woman in close proximity to each other.
There is forbidden love and arranged marriage. The boys competing for the heroine’s heart deliver all the stereotypical lines and actions, including embarking on a clandestine werewolf hunt, in a futile attempt to either win the young maiden’s heart or else prove his love. There was a weird sensual jealousy dance somewhere in there and an almost, but not really, sex scene or two. Best friends turn on each other and the town simpleton is wrongfully accused and then “accidentally” killed. (Which is no great loss because he served no purpose in the movie whatsoever.) When the heroine suddenly falls victim to a terrible plot and is accused of witchcraft, the competing boys find common ground to team up to save the helpless blonde. In the end, the heroine is rescued and gets a version of a happy ending.
The characters, while all very pretty to look at, were not well developed. Red Riding Hood, here called Valerie, was really a pretty shell in a red cloak with absolutely no personality. Her two competing men, Peter the Woodcutter (Yep, that woodcutter) and Henry, the forced match, were both the brooding type, a la Edward for the Twi-Fans, with as much brain in their head as resided in their…well, you know. The movie features two villains; the werewolf, of course, and the wolf-hunter Father Solomon, the corrupt and self-absorbed priest. I normally enjoy Gary Oldman and would have in this movie, despite the movie itself, except that it seemed he was using Red Riding Hood as an accent test bed. He powered through about five of them through the flick. The residual characters bounce on and off screen with too much irregularity for the viewer to bother to care about them.
As to other aspects of the film, I found the sets uninspired. At one point the camera pulled back to a regrettable angle and the set looked like just that, a set in a sound-stage rather than tiny, snow-clad village. The production designers may have been aiming for a world record for amount of falling snow in one movie, as copious amounts of fake snow tumbled around, clinging to actors’ noses and eyelashes and their favorite things. Yet somehow there was never more than an inch of accumulation to be seen. The costumes were period indistinct and this bugs the historian in me. Nearly every single character wore muted shades and drawstring laced shirts. Yay, generic peasant wear! The CGI was poor quality and never varied. Werewolves once again are reduced to communicating telepathically, the heroine’s mother was the town harlot, and her father was, what else? A drunk.
Can I find anything good to say about this movie? Yes. I promise you I can. But they aren’t things the producers were hoping I would enjoy. There are a few giggle worthy jokes. Classics and used in other movies but still funny in Red Riding Hood. The bumbling town priest and a few quick bits of lover’s banter are entertaining but the movie is by no means a comedy. For as terrible as the script is I will give it up that they keep you guessing as to the identity of the werewolf. I do think that Valerie’s confusion and constant attacks of distrust and panic got a little much by the time they revealed the werewolf, but the viewer at least gets a while to try to figure it out. I’ll admit that it wasn’t who I thought it was.
Beyond that, one of my favorite scenes involves Roxanne, Valerie’s best friend and the older sister of the town simpleton, Claude. The corrupt Father Solomon has taken Claude captive thus Roxanne feels it necessary to bargain for his release. First she offers up three dingy looking coins. When those were refused she promptly begins removing her shirt to offer herself. It’s not supposed to be funny and I’m not suggesting that prostitution in any form is funny, but the fact that when Solomon told the girl to turn around, the actress managed to eek out a choked sob, the first emotion she’d attempted to display in the whole movie, struck the last chord of my patience. I had to hold in the laughter and still earned myself a few sidelong glances from fellow movie-goers.
Altogether it was poorly written, poorly acted, poorly designed, and poorly directed (Sorry Twi-fans, Hardwicke can’t get past that one quite yet.). Even the ending was dissatisfactory as ***PARTIAL SPOILER ALERT*** after all has gone down and the werewolf revealed and dealt with (I’ll not tell you who or how), the town learns and changes nothing. The disembodied voice-over even tells you as much; “It’s all they know.” Valerie becomes a recluse in her grandmother’s house in the woods. Her man (I’ll not tell you who she picks) is unfortunately turned to a werewolf and takes some time to “get used to” his new identity as a “beast.” But just before the credits roll, he returns to Valerie’s cottage in wolf form. When she sees him standing there, greasy and yellow-toothed, she smiles warmly. As one of my fellow theater patrons commented, why wouldn’t he just wait to show up till he was human again? What does he expect her to do when he’s a wolf? Cuddle?
1 thought on “Red Riding Hood Really Ought To Have Stayed Home”
At least it was better than Twilight. 😉
I had fun at the movie with my 15 and 11 year old daughters. Both have seen all the Twilight movies, so far. My older daughter is a big fan of the werewolf/vampire books that are filling the shelves right now. (Though she read all the Twi-books, she is not a fan of the series – the author “does not develop her characters and we have no reason to even care that Bella exists much less understand the strange attraction of every guy around her” so says she… mom is proud.)
But back to RRH – as a fan of mythology and folklore I enjoyed seeing the different ways various wolf stories were incorporated. there were references sprinkled throughout and we had fun after the movie naming off all the ones we caught. A short list without spoilers…
– Peter and the Wolf
– wood cutters
– silver nails
– the story about the wife
– the three little pigs
– rocks in the body
– and many others
Side note: I had great reservations about letting my 11 year old see it. I was sure it would be too scary. I had hesitations about seeing it myself as I am a scary-movie-whimp of the highest order. Her friends saw it and everyone survived so we gave it a try.
Good news: It was not scary – mild suspense, couple of jumpy moments — less scary than an episode of Vampire Diaries. No gory images, either.
Made for a fun Saturday night out with the girls.
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