It seems that recreating classic fairytales has become one of the latest trends in Hollywood moviemaking. Last year, Tim Burton took on the fantastical Alice in Wonderland, and instead of following the beloved original storyline, created a sequel. Now, Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) directs Red Riding Hood, shifting the story to tell of a not-so-little red riding hood.
Viewers be warned, the new film takes next to nothing from the original story. Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) lives in a medieval town on the outskirts of a dark forest. For two generations, a wolf has tormented the town and in order to keep the wolf at bay, the townspeople offer an animal sacrifice. When the wolf kills Valerie's sister, a wolf hunter arrives to rid the town of the beast. Meanwhile, Valerie is stuck in a love triangle with her arranged fiancé Henry (Max Irons) and her childhood friend Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), whom she loves deeply.
And here's the other thing: Red Riding Hood was hilarious. Had it been a comedy, that would be great, but I'm pretty sure that's not what they were going for. There were several moments in the storyline when I accidentally burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of what was going. Here are just a few of those moments.
1. The wolf never eats anyone. In the fairytale, the Big Bad Wolf gobbles up Riding Hood's grandmother. In the film, the townspeople's sacrifice their best livestock so the wolf can have a nice non-human meal. Once the murders begin, the bodies remain largely intact. A few get scratched here and there, but isn't this thing supposed to chow down?
2. Neither of the men in Valerie's love triangle took the lead, as you would expect a leading man to do. I found myself hoping the powers that be would cast Irons as Dopey in the upcoming Snow White films, because he was just that. Perpetually dumbstruck, his mouth seemed to always be hanging open.
3. Aside from Valerie's obligatory red hood, the only other holdover from the original tale was Valerie uttering, "Grandma, what big eyes you have." The dialogue plays an essential role in the fairytale, but it didn't fit into the film at all. I imagine the filmmakers felt obligated to include the famous lines, but with the story they created, it was just silly.
4. Peter had perfectly styled hair. Hmm, I didn't know mousse and hair gel existed in medieval middle of nowhere. I guess he could be using rabbit saliva or pine sap from the trees. Peter wasn't the only one; Valerie's mother's (Virginia Madsen) curls never appear out of place.
5. The computer-animated wolf has come a long way since last year's Twilight Saga: New Moon, but still doesn't look quite right. Actually, the Red Riding Hood wolf looks much more like what I imagine the wolves in Twilight should have looked like.
Red Riding Hood did excel in some ways. The overall theme of paranoia rode strong throughout the film and the filmmakers did a brilliant job of keeping the identity of the wolf under wraps. And Hardwicke knows how to find a good shot. The visual landscape of the film, as well as the supernatural storyline, had a very Twilight vibe, which is no surprise considering Hardwicke directed that as well. Sadly though, the cheesy lines and dopey leading men of Red Riding Hood didn't leave much for the talented Seyfried to work with.
Like Hollywood's bloated sequels and re-makes, fairytale-inspired films come with a built-in audience. But the updated retellings haven't been able to add much to the story. Perhaps we expect too much. Or maybe, they really are just that ridiculous.
Red Riding Hood
Starring Amanda Seyfried,
Max Irons, Shiloh Fernandez.