This is Grimm – Red Riding Hood review

Red Riding Hood – Starring Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman and Shiloh Fernandez. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Rated M. Originally published March 23, 2011. By Simon Miraudo.

When Red Riding Hood stopped being bad in all the conventional ways, it found a bunch of new, innovative ways to be bad. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Red Riding Hood never stops being bad in the conventional ways; all those innovations merely pile upon the film’s many pre-existing flaws. So, what developments in the field of Cinematic Badness does director Catherine Hardwickepioneer in her new film, you ask. A scene of faux-lesbian, renaissance fair, bonfire grinding, anyone? How about two vacant-eyed male leads that will leave you pleading for the presence of charismatic-by-comparison thespians Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner? Or even a Simple Jack-style village idiot plonked into the middle of proceedings, left to mug his way into and out of every scene, just for the hell of it? Yep, Red Riding Hood went there. Red Riding Hood went there, bought a souvenir lute from the folk festival gift shop, and came all the way back.

As you may have already guessed from the title, the picture is based on the classic fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood, in which a girl navigates the woods to visit her granny, only to find her replaced by a ravenous wolf. The poster’s tagline promotes the film as “a breathtaking vision of a 700 year old legend” (note that the legend is ‘700 years old’ and not ‘700 years long’ as I had begun to suspect midway through the screening). Little Red /Valerie is played by the very talented Amanda Seyfried, although evidence of her talent will not be found here. She is absolutely stranded by Hardwicke; many a scene ends with Seyfried aimlessly wandering in and out of frame, as if she wasn’t sure if Hardwicke had yelled cut. She looks like the unwitting bystanders that you catch accidentally standing behind reporters on the evening news, chomping on a sandwich, completely unaware that they are being filmed.

Screenwriter David Leslie Johnson stretches out the simple one-line synopsis of the fairytale into feature film length, although it’s more a feat of ‘padding’ than a legitimate creation of mythology. The village of Daggerhorn has long been tormented by the big bad wolf for generations, but virginal Valerie is far too enamoured by brooding wood-chopper Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) to notice. Although her parents (Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke) have arranged for Valerie to marry the rich, sensitive Henry (Max Irons) she’s ready to run away with her wood-chopping paramour and start a new life. But any hopes for a peaceful future come to an end when Joseph McCarthy-esque witch hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) arrives in the village to unearth the werewolf once and for all, reminding the townspeople that the perpetrator could be any one of them. Solomon brings his two children along for the ride, and they are introduced by begging their dad to find the wolf that killed their mother. Moments later, he reveals to the villagers that he was the one to kill their mother, as she was a werewolf, and he’s never had the heart to tell the children. Still, he feels the need to remind the villagers at any and every opportunity about that one time he killed his wife. Being Gary Oldman, he does this in a variety of bombastic ways. Frankly, counting the sheer number of times he excitedly drops this piece of information (often for no reason at all) was the only thing keeping me engaged. Also, those two kids are never seen again after their introduction; it’s as if Father Solomon had produced two spawn merely to spout exposition in one scene of a lacklustre Catherine Hardwicke film.

As for Hardwicke … well, if you didn’t already know she was the director of Twilight, you’ll assume as much after sitting through this. All the hallmarks are here: the toothless depiction of a supernatural being, the absolutely unconvincing visual style (this is the sound-stagiest looking movie I’ve seen in some time – it screams ‘school production’!), the inane line readings from actors without cohesive direction, inept action sequences, and much much more. She’s even lost her one wild card: her ability to adequately portray teenage rebellion, angst and sexual desire. In its place is a totally flaccid love triangle, no doubt shoe-horned in to capitalise on the popularity ofthat ultra-successful trilogy. The premise had promise; a procedural based around the hunt for a werewolf with tinges of McCarthyist commentary (kind of like The Crucible meets Zodiac). But the execution is closer to Dynasty meets The Wicker Man. But, I’ll give credit where credit is deserved. Props to the casting director for choosing Virginia Madsen to play Seyfried’s mother. A spitting image!


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Red Riding Hood arrives on DVD and Blu-ray August 10, 2011.

One Response to “This is Grimm – Red Riding Hood review”

  1. And now I WANT to see that movie. I’ve seen all the Twilight movies thus far and they’ve all been HILARIOUS! If this movie is even worse, it definitely sounds like something worth renting! 😀 😀

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