Red Riding Hood is a modern take on the classic fairy tale. Well, I would call it a whole new version since very little of this movie reminds one of the fairy tale. The red, hooded cape is worn by Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), and she carries a basket in one part. There is a wolf and a grandmother, but other than that, this is a new tale.
This is Catherine Hardwicke’s first project since her Twilight phenomenon brought a lot of fame and fans. Other than Twilight author, Stephenie Meyer, I would consider Hardwicke the one who started it all. She was obviously very passionate about the project. However, the themes and elements that ran through Red Riding Hood are so similar to those in Twilight. Forbidden romance, supernatural beings, and the leading lady torn between two suitors are all present in this film. When the film opens, there are sweeping shots of the landscape, even one with a really tall pine that I could imagine Bella and Edward standing in. Their are also some flowers mixed in with the grass that hearken back to Bella and Edward’s meadow. Furthermore, Billy Burke who was in Twilight is a main character in this film, and Shiloh Hernandez was supposedly a runner-up for the role of Edward. While Hardwicke is fond of working with the same actors in many of her projects, I wonder if some of the other elements were a nod to Twilight. Considering that I am a Twilight fan, it was hard for me to ignore these things. I would really like to read someone’s review of Red Riding Hood that has never seen Twilight.
The film itself focuses on the threat of a wolf or werewolf that comes to a village and has been known to kill villagers. Offerings of livestock are put out for sacrifice to keep the wolf appeased. The village is once again in danger after the older sister of Valerie is killed by the wolf. The village men decide to go after the wolf and kill it, but they end up killing a real wolf, only to find out that this is not the wolf. A kind of shaman, Solomon (Gary Oldman), is called in to rid the village of the wolf. He brings with him a small army and an elephant statue that doubles as a torture chamber. Soloman tells the villagers that the wolf actually is one of them. This leads to finger-pointing among the villagers. A few other people get killed throughout the movie until the mystery is solved.
The talent is diverse and well cast. I am not a huge fan of Amanda Seyfried, but she did a decent job playing Valerie. Her large, doe eyes and fair skin served her part well. Lucas Haas plays a villager with a voice of reason who asks Solomon to come to help the village. Gary Oldman plays another villainous character with an interesting back story and some creepy fingernails. Billy Burke plays Valerie’s father who is a heavy drinker and not as prosperous as his wife (Virginia Madsen) would like. Julie Christie plays the grandmother. She lives outside the village in a house. I would describe her almost like an outcast, and the dreads she sports adds to her weirdness. Virginia Madsen is the only actor who really did not fit in with the rest of the cast. That might have been on purpose, but she was too pretty and modern looking for me.
The two boys vying for Valerie’s heart are both relative newcomers. Shiloh Fernandez plays Peter, Valerie’s true love. Peter has dark hair, wears black clothes, and is in the same profession as Valerie’s father, a woodcutter. He is the bad boy. On the other side of the spectrum, Max Irons (son of Jeremy Irons) plays Henry. He has lighter hair, dashing good looks, and has a better paying job as a blacksmith. Valerie and Henry have also been engaged to be married, as this village is in the habit of arranged marriages. This push and pull of the two men wanting to be with Valerie, and Valerie trying to decide who to be with, is the secondary focus of the movie.
The wolf itself is black and scary. It has the ability to talk to Valerie and she understands the wolf. The one thing that Valerie notices about the wolf are its brown eyes. Once that recognition is placed with the audience, every character with brown eyes becomes a suspect, male and female. I wonder how many brown contacts were used for this film? From my experience watching the film, I constantly changed who I thought was the wolf. It is not the obvious choice. If it had been, the movie would have suffered for it.
Although this is a new version of the classic fairy tale, Red Riding Hood is rated PG-13 for a reason. I would hesitate on bringing little kids to the movie. There are some scary images, especially the wolf, and people do get killed. Through my Twilight eyes, I thought it was a decent movie, not great, but not bad either. I wish Catherine Hardwicke had deviated more from Twilight and done something completely different. I do have to say that it was refreshing to see a new idea for a fairy tale. Moviegoers including myself are tired of seeing sequels and remakes, and Red Riding Hood does not fit into that category.
I give Red Riding Hood 3 “scary-ass fingernails” out of 5.
P.S. Leonardo DiCaprio is a producer on this film.