Red Riding Hood

Movie Information

The Story: "Little Red Hiding Hood" in Twilight clothing. The Lowdown: Strong contender for dumbest and most unintentionally funny movie of 2011.
Score:

Genre: Tween/Teen Hormonal Twilight Knockoff
Director: Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight)
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen, Julie Christie
Rated: PG-13

Another week, another children’s story reconfigured for hormonal youth. This one—“Little Red Hiding Hood”—comes from Catherine Hardwicke brought us Twilight in 2008, making her the godmother of hormonal horror. The value of such an accolade is dubious, but since Hardwicke shows little aptitude for filmmaking, it may be the best she can aspire to. I missed her much-praised indie Thirteen (2003), but presumably this made her the go-to director for teen angst—from skateboarders to the Virgin Mary to the mopey morbid to this newest troubled-teen tripe. In her favor this time, she lays off the jittery-cam till she opts to use it for eavesdropper-point-of view. In the film’s favor, the imagery sometimes looks like a Pre-Raphaelite painting—or more probably a vintage Hammer horror movie. That may be intentional. It’s also a lot funnier than Beastly, the recent teen-aimed revamp of “Beauty and the Beast.” That probably isn’t intentional.

Why anyone thought this was a good idea, I don’t know. Back in 1941 The Wolf Man noted that “Little Red Riding Hood” was a werewolf story, but the studio behind it wasn’t dumb enough to actually pursue the concept. Sixty years later, we’re apparently ready for it. Well, whether or not we were, we got it. But what exactly did we get? You won’t believe me, but I’ll tell you anyway.

First off, there’s no Red Riding Hood. Instead, there’s this nature child called Young Valerie (Megan Charpentier) who cavorts in the woods with Young Peter (Dj Greenburg). Together, they trap a bunny rabbit and may or may not cut the animal’s throat. We can’t tell because the film leaps forward 10 years at this point and Valerie has turned into Amanda Seyfried while Peter has turned into occasional TV actor Shiloh Fernandez. Even though Max is apparently the inventor of styling mousse, he is but an humble woodsman, and Valerie’s mother, Suzette (Virginia Madsen), is some kind of medieval social climber who wants her daughter to marry into money. In their little village—apparently made of Lincoln Logs with sharpened ends—this means marrying Henry (Max Irons, son of Jeremy), whose family must have a nicer hovel.

While Valerie tussles over which pseudo-hunky guy to marry, the village is dealing with the local werewolf, whom they usually placate with barnyard animals chained in the town square. But when the werewolf offs Valerie’s sister, the villagers get riled up and go hunt the beast in its lair, resulting in the death of Henry’s father and the slaying of a wolf. They apparently know bugger-all about werewolves, since they think their troubles are over. Enter professional werewolf hunter Father Ambrose (Gary Oldman)—complete with ethnically diverse henchman and a giant rolling metal elephant/heretic crockpot—who tries to explain werewolves to the cretinous villagers. They decide to hold a medieval rave—complete with a pantomime version of the yarn about the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf (I am not making this up)—and that, of course, brings on the real CGI Twilight-ized, Buick-sized werewolf and no shortage of mayhem.

It gets no better, but it does get dumber and dumber as it sinks further and further into a story that makes less and less sense as it tangles itself up in more and more inconsistent “folklore.” I can’t decide whether a werewolf that communes telepathically with Valerie is a worse idea than dressing Valerie up in some kind of cheesy armadillo mask (I guess it’s supposed to be a pig) to leave her for the werewolf. I do know both are pretty funny, but then so is Valerie’s awkward and literal roll in the hay with Peter, the “Little Red Riding Hood” dream sequence with Grandma (Julie Christie), and the amazingly bad acting. There’s no shortage of that last, though Seyfried probably takes the prize in a performance where her every emotion is conveyed by the extent to which her mouth hangs open. Even Oldman can’t do much with the material, though. His witch/werewolf hunter isn’t a patch on Vincent Price in Witchfinder General (1968) or Michael Gothard in The Devils (1971). But they didn’t get to say, “Lock him up—in the elephant!” Rated PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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10 thoughts on “Red Riding Hood

  1. In the film’s favor, the imagery sometimes looks like a Pre-Raphaelite painting—or more probably a vintage Hammer horror movie.
    I was rather hoping this would be like a vintage Hammer movie. I should’ve know not to get my hopes up.

    But they didn’t get to say, “Lock him up—in the elephant!”
    Is the elephant, at any stage, catapulted from the roof of a castle?

  2. Ken Hanke

    Is the elephant, at any stage, catapulted from the roof of a castle?

    Alas, no, but it would have improved things greatly.

  3. DrSerizawa

    See? This too could have profited from the inclusion of albino cannibal degenerates and having them eat the entire cast. Oh say, in the first 20 minutes.

    as it sinks further and further into a story that makes less and less sense as it tangles itself up in more and more inconsistent “folklore.”

    Now that is an excellent euphemism for “making up s**t as they go along”. I’ll have to remember that one.

  4. Ken Hanke

    See? This too could have profited from the inclusion of albino cannibal degenerates and having them eat the entire cast. Oh say, in the first 20 minutes.

    It’s also another strong case for the benefits of a monkey stampede.

  5. Daniel Withrow

    The Company of Wolves pursued the “Red Riding Hood as a Tale of Werewolves” angle, with a side-helping of “Fairy Tales as metaphor for puberty”, pretty bizarrely back in 1984. I haven’t seen it in a really long time, but I remember it being worth a watch.

  6. Ken Hanke

    with a side-helping of “Fairy Tales as metaphor for puberty”

    As subtext that can be said of The Wolf Man (1941) and it’s the only marginally interesting aspect of She-Wolf of London (1946).

    I remember it being worth a watch.

    Since it’s Neil Jordan, that would be my feeling, but since I haven’t seen it in 25 years, I wouldn’t commit to anything definite. Chances are, though, that the ability now to put it within the context of his overall work, I might well find it more satisfying now.

  7. Katty

    i think its funny how you only like bloody action and boring old people dramas, did it ever cross your mind that they actually made this for someone a couple decades younger then you and a different gender. just something to consider when giving a review

  8. Ken Hanke

    i think its funny how you only like bloody action and boring old people dramas

    Old people are like what?

    did it ever cross your mind that they actually made this for someone a couple decades younger then you and a different gender.

    First of all, it’s “than” not “then.” Second, a couple decades and a different gender would make it aimed at 36 year old women, which I doubt. Whoever they made it for, it hasn’t set the world on fire at the box office and has been savaged by the vast majority of the critics. Out of 118 reviews gathered so far on Rotten Tomatoes, 104 of them are bad reviews.

    just something to consider when giving a review

    Try as I may — and despite anything that might be suggested — I will never be a teenage girl.

  9. bill smith

    So, this isn’t about puberty, pedophiles, and menstruation?

  10. Prolet Ivanova

    This was supposed to be a new view of the classic tale – well, to have such great raw material and turn it into THAT boring movie is really never been done before to the Red Riding Hood. Congrats!
    I guess they never really intented it to be an Oscar material, but I imagined something like “Let the right one in” (the original movie) – you know, dark and gory story with some great charakters in it. Even Twilight had more charakter, because, you may like it or hate it- but it has something specific, recognizable (oh, look , sparkling vamps!). This is so obviously just trying to cash on Twilght, its insulting even for the teenager’s intelligence.
    I just can’t believe Leonardo DiCaprio produced this. But then, he produced “Orhpan ” as well, so I guess I will just have to avoid Appian Way in the future.

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