Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Red Riding Hood

We all know the fairy tale of "Little Red Riding Hood," as she's off to grandmother's house and lured by a the big bad wolf.  In Catherine Hardwicke's wretchedly awful, Twilight-y adaptation, the story is fleshed out.  Fleshed out with such out-there oddity, gonzo acting and such nutty visual sense, that it makes Julie Taymor's avant-garde period pieces seem understated by comparison.  Yet for such an illogical, non sense film it's bad in such interesting and strangely pleasurable ways, that it must be stated that there's major talent associated with this film-- no one could make something this grandiose and bizarre without something.  A new camp classic might be it's best hope at a lasting legacy.  Odder still is that a major movie studio (Warner Bros. in this case) would pay the bill for such an aggressive strange adaptation of a such a famous tale, credited screenwriter is David Johnson (Orphan.)  And while the young female contingent that made Twilight the phenomenon it is may coo to the Gothic mist of Red Riding Hood, the best hope for anyone else is to sit back and embrace the inappropriate giggle bursts.

Little Red is giving a name, Valerie, and is played by Amanda Seyfried, whose photogenic complexion was clearly given more attention too than her character.  She lives in a quaint village, date and time unspecified, but there's lots of fog and snow-- the sets appear lifted from a Disneyland park attraction, but a very lovingly created one.  Valerie, a young comely girl, and the prettiest in town, is torn between two men, the brooding, dangerous love since girlhood, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) and the richer, brooding one she's meant to marry for a better future, Henry (Max Irons.)  Both are incredibly pretty in that airbrushed, WB television show sort of way, impeccably groomed.  For such a small town, they obviously know how to take care of their skin.  Most of film is torn up in this love triangle that lacks any sort of passion or much interest-- in truth both boys are fairly interchangeable, despite such pleasant hairdos.  Seyfried does better than required, she has the right come on, but the film doesn't quite know what to do with it, and oddly puts the star in the back of the herd for a lot of the film.

The town is of course haunted by the famous wolf, who for generations has terrorized the quaint village and is rearing to destroy it all, one pretty person at a time.  Early on a plan is set where the men will go off and kill the beast-- and they think they do, the first time out, twenty minutes into the feature.  And they celebrate in an aggressively and atrociously bad sequence where all the townspeople get their party on and drink up a storm.  At this point, there can't be anything to take seriously, embrace the giggle fits.  Of course their wrong, the wolf is still out there and still on the hunt...for Valerie.  A priest-- Father Solomon, played without a care in the world by Gary Oldman, reveling in his pay check and an opportunity to do whatever the hell he wants, comes to save the town, rid it of it's sinful beast.  That he's the most amoral character in the film may be a small commentary on church ethics, or a typing error in the script, either way it's all very arbitrary.  Oh, oh, yes there's also Grandmother, played with witchy verve by the great Julie Christie, who like Oldman hams it up masterfully.  Grandmother is an odd one, certainly not the saintly, kindly matriarch one might expect.

Valerie pines for the two boys that love her, as the wolf rages on, killing more of the ridiculous members of the town.  There's lots of fog and snow, and fire.  The wolf itself is an throwback to '80s era dopey special effects, but there's an endearing cuteness to his silly design.  The werewolf is, but of course, one of the townsmen, but who?  It all gears to a ridiculous twist ending, that must indeed, have made M. Night Shyamalan jizz in his pants, it's on that level.  Embrace the giggles... D+

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