No matter what version you’ve heard, when it comes to traditional folklore and fairytales, there isn’t one that comes with more thematic baggage than Little Red Riding Hood. Whether as a parable on a young girl’s sexuality or simply a cautionary tale for kids about the dangers of wandering off the beaten path, most written adaptations over the last 300 years tend to follow the same narrative pattern before offering some type of intrinsic moral.
In Red Riding Hood, director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) communicates none of the above, nor does she pretend to have the least bit of interest in capturing any of the enchantment, eeriness, or menacing quality of the original fable. Instead, Hardwicke is out to tap into the demographic of 13 to 18-year-old tweens who fund these gothic soap operas with their babysitting money. The Twilight Saga might shamelessly placate the horror/fantasy world, but at least Stephenie Meyer’s vamps and wolfboys brood vehemently. In the passionless Red Riding Hood, you’re lucky to get a blank stare and whimper.
Set in the medieval, snow-covered village of Daggerhorn (fortunately not the most optimal weather conditions to show off werewolf abs), a bloodthirsty beast has killed a human after 20 years of feasting only on the livestock appetizers he is served. Amanda Seyfried (Letters to Juliet) plays Valerie, a pretty little thing caught in a love triangle with a poor woodsman (Shiloh Fernandez) and a well-to-do blacksmith (Max Irons). Paranoia sweeps across the village when werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) rides in and deems everyone a suspect, including creepy, old grandma (Julie Christie).
Unintentionally hilarious (the “what big eyes you have” scene begs for ridicule), Red Riding Hood piles on the dreadful dialogue and unconvincing romance like salad-bar fixings. The only way it could have possibly been hokier is if the climax actually featured a computer-generated wolf dressed in granny’s nightie knitting a doily.
Red Riding Hood
Dir. Catherine Hardwicke; writ. David Johnson; feat. Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen, Julie Christie. (PG-13)