Red Riding Hood review ?½

I'm not ashamed to admit that I liked the first Twilight movie. I'm not Robsessed and I'm not a big fan of KStew, either. What I liked about it was the way it felt like a little indie film that made you remember what first love is like (even if it is with a member of the undead). I put a lot of that down to the film's director, Catherine Hardwicke, who had prevously made her mark in indie cinema. So despite knowing Red Riding Hood had bombed on its release in the US, I was still intrigued to see what she made of a "studio" film.

It's impossible not to draw parallels with Twilight. The story follows teenage love, it opens with numerous shots of trees (ok these ones are covered in snow, but still) and Hardwicke's cast Burke as her lead character's father. The story centres on Valerie, in love with woodcutter Peter, but who has been betrothed to the wealthy Henry by her mother. As well as this maelstrom of hormones, Valerie's village is terrorised by a werewolf to whom the locals offer up their animals as sacrifices in a bid to keep the beast sweet (there's an on-going theme of sacrifice throughout the film). When Valerie's sister is killed by the wolf the local priest summons famed wolf-hunter Father Solomon, played by Oldman. He quickly deduces the wolf must be someone from within the village, happily giving Hardwicke the opportunity to get all her characters giving on another suspicious sideways glances. This should have been the perfect start for a tense thriller. Instead we're stuck firmly in the teenage mire as Valerie bounces between both possible love interests while trying to find out who the wolf is.

Obviously there are certain parts of the original story that had to be retained. Valerie is given the titular cape by her Granny who also gets to utter the story's most famous lines. But the majority of the script is SO bad it's almost laughable. The acting's also pretty shoddy. Seyfried as Valerie is all big eyes and heaving bosom. She spends most of the film wrapped up in long dresses as well as her 'hood' but don't worry boys, she does show a bit of leg at one point – even if it is covered by a long woollen sock (it's cold in that village!). Fernandez as Peter and Irons as Henry are almost as wooden as the village's buildings. There's one scene between the two that was so bad I could only laugh. The only really decent performances are from the more established actors, Madsen as Valerie's mother (and she does look like her on-screen daughter), Burke does OK as Valerie's father and Granny is played by Christie. Oldman gets to channel his big-screen baddie schtick as Solomon complete with a metal elephant used for torturing possible wolves.

There are a few good bits. The first introduction of the wolf is done well and the effects on the wolf itself aren't bad. But the film is so stuck in its love story element that everything else gets pretty much lost. And for a film about a wolf with "such big teeth" it lacks any bite.

Red Riding Hood at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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